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REconciling Climate Change needs with Gender Equality
This month's Generation Equality Forum organized in Paris highlighted the links between gender and climate change. A new study conducted by the French Economic Observatory (OFCE) and Sciences Po describes the connections between climate and gender as one of the central issues in development today. What is becoming increasingly clear is that in our efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, one priority need not be pursued at the expense of another.

What do the reduction of gender inequalities and the fight against climate change have in common? Both are central to the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015: SDG 5 and SDG 13 are dedicated to them. Logically, these two issues are also central to the discourses, commitments and strategies of the main national and transnational actors in development assistance and the fight against the effects of climate change.

In a way, the challenge of the SDGs can be seen with these two objectives. How to reconcile them? Can they be interconnected? How do these two issues fit in with the strategies and discourses of the many stakeholders involved?

Two major development issues - linked

The purpose of the ambitious and innovative research initiated in 2020 by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), with the French Economic Observatory (OFCE) and Sciences Po Gender Research Program (Presage), is to answer these questions. “An analysis of the discourses on gender issues has been conducted by a number of social science researchers for years,” says Serge Rabier, a social demographer responsible for research at AFD. “This has given a better understanding of the typologies of discourses, which refer to different visions and more or less extensive objectives for the transformation of social gender relations.”  

The fight against climate change is based on an international framework that has been structured since 1992 and the Rio Earth Summit, while gender issues were added to the international agenda a few years later, during the 4th World Conference on Women organized in Beijing in 1995. “Up until now there has been very little research on the two issues and their crossovers,” says Rabier, who is also a specialist in gender issues. “This is why we wanted to make an initial assessment to better inform these issues, which have become very important today. However, it’s interesting to start with what the institutions and organizations in the development field say, write and declare.”

A new field of research 

The OFCE has expertise in this area and has therefore been commissioned to conduct an analysis of the discourses of the various categories of stakeholders on quite an extensive set of documentary production. Some 800 documents in French, English and Spanish from 54 structures, including international institutions, non-governmental organizations, multilateral and bilateral institutions and public development banks, have been filtered through 150 keywords and semantic fields related to action for the climate and gender, in order to gain a better understanding of them. 

At the intersection of gender and climate, eight interpretative frameworks (also called narrative frameworks) have been built, each illustrating a different approach in order to establish a convergence between them. The initial findings of this research, which were submitted on the eve of the Generation Equality Forum, show that women and girls should be prioritized in the fight against climate change in terms of their vulnerability.

On the other hand, they can gain from the transition of our economies towards more sustainable models. In many regions, young women and girls require better access to education and training. 

“It is extremely valuable initial research which has allowed us to create a baseline and lines of analysis to take things further,” says Serge Rabier. “We haven’t explored everything yet.” Starting with how these discourses are perceived in developing and emerging countries, if they are accepted or if there is resistance to them and, of course, their implementation.”

Will the talk be followed by action? Will they translate into practice a more effective reconciliation of gender issues with the fight against climate change and thereby bring about far-reaching transformations? Fulfilling the Paris Accord and instilling social cohesion are pillars of AFD’s strategy. Cutting-edge research is making an essential contribution.