Gender Equality Critical for Sustainable Development

Mar 3, 2017

Karla Robin Hershey, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia calls for engaging women in solutions to climate change and environmental degradation

Women and environmental protection - what are their roles, have their skills and knowledge been used adequately to tackle the environmental challenges, how important are women associations within the decision making process and what is the environmental impact on women’s health – those were some of the key few topics discussed at the first national conference on “Environmental Protection and Women in Serbia“.

The Conference, held today in Belgrade, was organized in anticipation of this year's Women’s Day (March 8). The keynote speakers at the event were Maja Gojković, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Karla Robin Hershey, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia and Jan Lundin, Swedish Ambassador.

Ms. Hershey used the occasion to highlight the relevance of the topic for the achievement of the new Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, which "calls all countries and stakeholders to take urgent action to ensure global wellbeing by shifting the world onto a sustainable and resilient path of development."

That's not going to be possible without addressing poverty and inequality, including - of course - gender inequality. The recent - and first such - Study on Gender and Climate Change for the Republic of Serbia recognized this.

Findings indicate that women and men in Serbia have different vulnerabilities to climate change given impacts on food security, agricultural productivity, livelihood, water availability, sanitation, health and energy, among others.

Existing gender inequalities, such as limited access to natural resources, to land and finance, and to household - and community decision - making, constrain women’s ability to adapt to - and cope with climate change.

After the catastrophic floods that struck Serbia in 2014, women were noted to be more vulnerable to climate-induced extreme weather events. Analyses after the floods showed that women were under-represented in emergency response planning and decision-making.

This issue was largely due to insufficient information reaching affected women, especially in the case of women from vulnerable groups such the Roma community.

These are just some examples of UNDP's work in Serbia, which has focused specifically on understanding the linkages between gender issues and climate change.

The knowledge acquired with many partners at all levels of government has already been integrated into the joint initiation of the Climate Smart Urban Development Challenge, UNDP's recently launched project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection.

This is a pioneering attempt to create climate-resilient communities by applying challenge-based and innovative climate-smart solutions. Gender equality will lie at the heart of the project’s implementation over the coming five years.

Besides providing gender-disaggregated data, the intention is also to incorporate strong gender elements into climate-related investments at local level, from energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy to waste management, urban mobility, planning and agriculture.

The project will develop gender-sensitive criteria and each of the project activity should elaborate their impact on both women and men.

Karla Hershey congratulated all of the participants today, for lending their support to the broadest possible recognition of just how vital gender equality will be to our overall effort in tackling climate change.

"But let us not forget that women are not only more vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation. They also possess the knowledge and skills critical to finding local solutions to this sizeable challenge," she concluded.