Loss and damage from a gender equality perspective

Women face unique challenges Photo: MEHEDI HASAN

A number of factors explain why women are more vulnerable to disasters

The resumed 48th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 48-2) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 48-2) on the Paris Agreement (APA 1-6) has started at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC), Bangkok, Thailand.

The negotiation is also going to discuss loss and damage under the Paris Agreement. Action to address loss and damage from climate change is an independent pillar of the Paris Agreement (Article 8), but it does not provide any basis for “liability and compensation” — a challenge for achieving climate justice in particular.

Roughly a quarter of NDCs (nationally determined contributions) include loss and damage, and 44% of small island developing states refer to loss and damage in their NDCs. Loss and damage finance needs to be scaled up according to common but differentiated responsibilities, historical accountabilities, and respective capabilities, and be channelled to the communities most affected, from a gender equality context including women.

Discussions around loss and damage financing at the international level has generally occurred under the UNFCCC, and has been led usually by the executive committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism. One of the most recent dialogues held was the Suva Expert Dialogue at the 2018 UNFCCC Bonn May intercessional, focusing on the financing solutions.

Under the UNFCCC decision text, there has been a decision to review the five-year work plan that was agreed for WIM, and increase active knowledge-sharing and how it reflected on gender and climate justice issues.

Sometimes, loss and damage cannot be measured in terms of physical assets or GDP. Examples of such non-economic losses include loss of life, cultural heritage, or eco-system services. Gender differences play double roles in the non-economic losses of climate. First, women often contribute to their families and their communities in non-monetary ways — often termed “care work.” Therefore, an assessment of loss and damage based only on monetary quantifications may not take into account the value of women’s contribution to society in terms of loss of life, or in relation to nutrition and migration.

However, an analysis of women’s capacity-building and leadership role within the gender framework is crucial, using an equity and empowerment approach. The promises made under Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, to mobilise finance, are yet to be fulfilled. Disaster risk insurance is only one of the solutions, that too burdening the responsibility of paying the premium to the vulnerable countries. Ahead of the WIM review in 2019, parties must assess, identify, and agree on raising an innovative source of finance to address the broader impact of loss and damage that fall outside of historical parameters.

Second, it is possible that loss and damage affects women in developing countries more directly than men, for example, in terms of loss of life, or in relation to nutrition and migration.

There is slow onset disaster where the impacts from gender context need to be addressed. As loss and damage have differential impacts to both women and men, given the scenario, there is a need to have a linkage building with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as the Sendai Framework particularly emphasized that “women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing and implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans, and programs; and adequate capacity-building measures need to be taken to empower women for preparedness as well as build their capacity for alternate livelihood means in post-disaster situations.”

There are a number of other factors that explain men and women’s differentiated vulnerability to climate change and disasters.

Women experience unequal access to resources and decision-making processes, with limited mobility in rural areas.

Similarly, socio-cultural norms can limit women from acquiring the information and skills necessary to escape or avoid hazards, eg swimming or climbing trees to escape rising water levels, accessing technology, and so on.

Therefore, the loss and damage assessments should include existing vulnerabilities and capacities specific to both women and men and at the same time consider the other vulnerable group like children, the disabled, minority groups. Women representatives from disaster-affected communities need to be consulted.

In order to achieve these objectives, parties must consider broader concepts and objectives, as well as a full range of approaches and tools of L&D mechanism that enables the synergies between gender dimensions of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation within the loss and damage assessment, ensuring that there is adequate funding for loss and damage above and beyond adaptation.

Originally this article was published on September 04, 2018 at Dhaka Tribune. The author Shaila Shahid is a Senior Programme Coordinator  (Gender and Climate Change) at ICCCAD.
Email: shahinshaila@gmail.com