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Three intergovernmental bodies recently adopted gender guidelines, while a non-binding Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment was agreed at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference and Canada has announced that the agenda for the 2018 session of the G7 will include 'Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment'.

The new policies were developed in some cases to update or align with existing policies, while the policy adopted by the UNFCCC COP 23 represents a new policy area.

With the year 2017 closing with heightened awareness of gender issues, we were drawn to the news that three intergovernmental bodies recently adopted gender guidelines. The 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UNFCCC adopted a gender action plan, under the Lima work programme on gender. The 53rd meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council adopted a Policy on Gender Equality, which will come into effect on 1 July 2018. And the 53rd session of the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC-53) and associated Committees sessions adopted the International Tropical Timber Organization’s (ITTO) Policy Guidelines on Gender Equality and Empowering Women. This policy brief presents highlights from each set of guidelines.

In its decision titled, ‘Establishment of a gender action plan (FCCC/SBI/2017/L.29)’, COP 23 agreed to: adopt a gender action plan; invite Parties and other stakeholders to participate and engage in implementing the gender action plan, with a view to advancing the goal of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all elements of climate change; request the Secretariat to prepare, for November 2019, a synthesis report on implementation of the gender action plan; and review implementation of the action plan at COP 25. The UNFCCC Gender Action Plan (GAP) seeks to advance women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and promote gender-responsive climate policy and mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the work of Parties, the Secretariat, UN entities and all stakeholders.

The GAP outlines five priority areas: capacity building, knowledge sharing and communication; gender balance, participation and women’s leadership; coherence; gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation; and monitoring and reporting. For each priority area, the GAP identifies relevant activities, responsible actors, a timeline and deliverables. The priority area on gender balance, participation and women’s leadership, for example, sets out four activities for promoting participation of women in national delegations at UNFCCC sessions, inclusion of information on the gender composition of relevant bodies in regular notifications to Parties at the time of nominations to UNFCCC bodies, capacity building on leadership, negotiation, facilitation and chairing in the UNFCCC process; and cooperation on formal and non-formal education and training programmes on climate change that target women and youth.

According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), a number of delegates recognized the historic nature of the decision on gender in their closing statements. For example, Costa Rica for the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), speaking on the historic adoption of the UNFCCC’s first gender action plan, emphasized that gender issues in the Global South are a “matter of life and death.”

In the GEF’s Policy on Gender Equality, the GEF notes the need to update its previous Policy on Gender Mainstreaming, reflecting “increased attention to gender” by COPs to the multilateral agreements (MEAs) that the GEF serves (UNCCD, CBD, Stockholm Convention on POPs, UNFCCC). It notes that the SDGs also call for gender-responsive approaches and actions, including through SDG 5 (gender equality). The GEF Council, therefore, aimed to “seize the strategic opportunities” to address gender equality and support women’s empowerment, particularly in areas where such actions can help achieve global environmental benefits.

The Policy stresses that a gender-responsive approach, defined as one that “identifies gender differences, promotes shared power, control of resources, decision-making and empowers women and girls” is integral to the GEF’s ability to achieve global environmental benefits.

In presenting the proposed Policy, the GEF Secretariat highlighted the Facility’s ambition to shift from a “gender aware” to a “gender responsive” approach by requiring robust standards in design, implementation and evaluation of GEF activities. The officials also emphasized that the Policy is the result of an extensive process of analyzing existing policies and conducting collaborative consultations with the GEF Gender Partnership members and others.

Members approved the GEF Policy on Gender Equality, Policy on Gender Equality (GEF/C.53/04) at the GEF Council meeting in November. The Policy will apply to all GEF-financed activities submitted on or after 1 July 2018.

The Policy clarifies the GEF’s approach to mainstream gender and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, and formalizes requirements for addressing gender equality in GEF-financed activities. Among these requirements, agencies must provide a gender analysis or socio-economic assessment at or prior to CEO Endorsement/Approval. The Policy also introduces a clearer focus on results, including requirements for monitoring and reporting on gender by agencies, and reporting on performance and results by the Secretariat. The Policy includes six guiding principles, including that efforts to mainstream gender and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment are pursued “in recognition of related international and national commitments to gender equality and human rights.”

The GEF plans to develop a strategy and time-bound action plan on gender to support the effective implementation of its Policy. The strategy and action plan will include concrete entry points and priority areas and actions to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

The ITTO’s Policy Guidelines on Gender Equality and Empowering Women (GEEW) were developed in consideration of other forest-related gender guidance documents, including the GEF and Green Climate Fund (GCF) gender requirements, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) strategies and plans, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Guidelines specifically state that they are designed to take forward SDG 5, draw on and complement the gender policies, strategies and action plans of member organizations of the CPF; satisfy current gender-related requirements of the GEF and the GCF; and provide the basis for further work by ITTO on gender issues.

The Policy Guidelines will serve as a framework for gender integration and mainstreaming in ITTO policies, plans, programmes, projects, activities and internal functioning. They aim to increase the impact and effectiveness of the ITTO’s operations in all areas and all levels.

The Guidelines feature a proposed list of actions for implementation in the following areas: policies, plans and thematic programs; project cycle; capacity building; statistics and information; learning, knowledge management and communication; networking and partnerships; internal management; and accountability. On the project cycle, for instance, one illustrative activity is to consult with the GEF and GCF gender focal points on measures needed to satisfy their gender requirements.

The Council decided to take immediate steps to implement the guidelines, including by training ITTO staff.

Upon adopting the ITTO Policy Guidelines, during the 53rd meeting of the ITTC in Lima, Peru, from 27 November to 2 December 2017, the Council decided to take immediate steps to implement the Guidelines, including by developing a new appendix to the ITTO Manual for Project Formulation to provide supplementary guidance on gender analysis in project planning and design, training ITTO staff and providing a study on gender roles in the forest industry. The Council agreed to report on progress in implementing the Guidelines at ITTC-54, and made funds available to commence the Guidelines’ operationalization.

While the UNFCCC’s decision took on a historic note, as the first gender action plan for the Convention, the GEF’s action followed on previous policies adopted in 2011 (policy on gender mainstreaming), 2014 (gender equality action plan) and May 2017 (endorsement of the recommendations of the Evaluation of Gender Mainstreaming in the GEF). The May 2017 decision included a recommendation to consider a revision of the GEF’s policy, in order to provide additional guidance, and to “better align with international best practice standards.” Alignment was also a guiding principle behind the ITTO’s Policy, which aimed to complement other organizations’ plans, satisfy funding requirements of the GEF and GCF, and advance SDG 5.

As the year winds down and the international community shifts its focus to the next round of meetings and decisions, will gender mainstreaming – and responsiveness – maintain momentum? One positive sign is a Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment, to which 72% of World Trade Organization (WTO) members agreed at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, in December. Although the document is non-binding, it provides a framework for WTO members to adopt “gender-responsive” trade policies. In the Declaration, members agree to share: experiences of policies and programs that encourage women’s participation in economies; best practices for gender-based analysis of trade policies and monitoring their effects; methodologies and practices for collecting and analyzing gender-disaggregated data, using indicators and analyzing gender-focused statistics related to trade. Signatories also underscore that “improving women’s access to opportunities and removing barriers to their participation” in economies contributes to sustainable economic development.

As the UN Conference on Trade and the Environment (UNCTAD) observes, the Declaration builds on previous work on gender, development and trade, including work that UNCTAD has done to promote gender perspectives in trade and other economic policies since 2010. The recognition by a majority of WTO members on the importance of gender issues points to increasing attention to gender issues globally.

Canada recently announced that one of the five themes that will guide discussions during its Presidency of the G7 in 2018 will be, ‘Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment’. In addition, each ministerial meeting ahead of the Leaders’ Summit will “integrate a gender-based analysis and will include a focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment,” the Prime Minister’s office said.

The extent to which the G7 leaders, the MEA bodies noted above, and other influential actors are willing to give gender equality valuable space on a high-level agenda, update existing policies, take historic new decisions, and maximize linkages while aligning with other frameworks will determine the quality of forward motion on gender in sustainable development in 2018. [Gender and climate change (FCCC/SBI/2017/L.29)] [Policy on Gender Equality (GEF/C.53/04)] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on COP 23 Decisions] [IISD RS Summary Report of COP 23] [IISD RS Summary Report of GEF Council] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on ITTC-53] [IISD RS Summary Report of ITTC-53] [ITTO Council Documents] [UNCTAD Press Release on WTO Declaration]

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