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feature focus: Gender, Poverty and Environment


Gender is rarely considered as a mainstream issue in environmental policies and programmes. However, a better understanding of the different priorities and perceptions of men and women can be used to maximize policy effectiveness.

Gender and Environment Milestones

1972 The Stockholm Declaration on Environment articulates the right of people to live in an environment of quality that permits a life of well-being and dignity.
1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), described as the first international bill of rights for women. Although environment is not specified in CEDAW, the Convention defines discrimination against women as "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
1985 The UN Third World Conference on Women, and associated NGO Forum in Nairobi, produces the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies, which recognize women's role in environmental conservation and management.
1991 The Global Assembly on Women and the Environment convenes in Miami.
1992 The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio recognizes women as a 'major group' in sustainable development and makes specific provisions to advance their position. These include Chapter 24 in Agenda 21, entitled 'Global Action for Women towards Sustainable Development'. Rio Principle 20 reads: "Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential in achieving sustainable development."
1993 The World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna acknowledges that women's rights are an inalienable part of universal human rights.
1994 The International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo takes major steps forward on women's and girls' rights to control their lives and status in reproductive rights including family planning.
1995 The UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing results in the Beijing Platform for Action, which offers a roadmap for 12 key areas: poverty, education and training, health, violence, armed conflict, the economy, decision making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, the media, the environment and the girl child. Section K, on women and the environment, asserts that "women have an essential role to play in the development of sustainable and ecologically sound consumption and production patterns and approaches to natural resource management".

Beijing+5: Beijing and Beyond convenes in New York and recognizes several emerging critical issues for women and girls, including work-related rights, gender-based violence, reproductive and sexual rights, education and social security, and access to productive resources. At the Millennium Summit in New York, UN Member States commit themselves to establishing a better, healthier and more just world by 2015. The Millennium Declaration promises "to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable. "

Among the eight Millennium Development Goals are:

  • Goal One: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  • Goal Three: promote gender equality and empower women; and
  • Goal Seven: ensure environmental sustainability.

Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security recognizes the impact of war on women, and recommends improving women's protection during conflict as well as women's leadership in peace-building and reconstruction.


2002 The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg issues a Political Declaration, and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. They confirm the need for gender analysis, gender-specific data and gender mainstreaming in all sustainable development efforts, and the recognition of women's land rights. Principle 18 of the declaration states: "We are committed to ensure that women's empowerment and emancipation and gender equality are integrated in all the activities encompassed within Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals and the Plan of Implementation of the Summit."

The 11th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development decides that gender equality will be a cross-cutting issue in all forthcoming work up until 2015.

The 2004-05 UNEP programme of work identifies gender as a cross-cutting priority in all UNEP's activities.

2004 The First Meeting of the Global Women's Assembly on Environment is held in Nairobi at UNEP. The resulting Manifesto engages to "continue the struggle for a peaceful, just and healthy planet for all. and to continue to work, develop, and support activities that contribute to gender justice, a cleaner safer environment, and a better life for our communities. "
2005 Implementation of the MDGs within the context of gender and environment is a special topic for consultation at the 23rd session of UNEP's Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum.


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