SDG Knowledge Weekly: Gender Equality and an Agreement on Principle 10
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Posts and reports highlight divisions in development progress between rural and urban women, the potential of cash transfers and women’s empowerment.

The Center for Global Development examined the gender gap at US-based nonprofits working in the global development arena.

Friends of Europe released a factsheet on women, peace and security, and women’s participation in security negotiations.

ECLAC released a publication on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters (Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration), prior to the Ninth Meeting of the Negotiating Committee.

This week’s brief covers the global community’s celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, which entailed the release of numerous gender-relevant reports, blogs and news stories. The brief also reviews the outcome of the recent Ninth Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) launched a report titled, ‘Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals.’ Like UN Women’s flagship report titled, ‘Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ the BSDC publication reveals both the breadth and depth of gender connections across the full SDG framework. The reports were launched in anticipation of the upcoming 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 62), being held from 12-23 March, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Numerous official CSW reports, documents and non-governmental organization (NGO) statements are available here.

Rural women are “ignored by policy,” writes Odette Chalaby on Apolitical, picking up on the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day: ‘Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.’ Chalaby notes that women fare worse than men in rural areas, and worse than female urban counterparts. This holds true across development contexts, with rural women in the US being less likely than urban women to receive preventative health screenings, and rural women in the least developed countries (LDCs) less likely than urban women to give birth with a skilled health professional present. The post concludes with a call for better measurement of gender issues, highlighting a gender-sensitive poverty metric recently developed by the Government of Australia that can potentially provide data for 25% of the gender-related SDG indicators.

Relating financial resource access to overarching women’s economic empowerment, a post by Danny Lee on News Deeply finds that cash payments to women as part of aid programming can have cascading effects in terms of financial autonomy and decision-making powers in their households. However, Jessica Hagen-Zanker of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) cautions in the piece that a range of factors determine women’s empowerment, and that cash transfers are but one factor of many. A separate study, summarized on Devex, examines “whether women’s empowerment leads to better agricultural and farming technology adoption.” The researchers found that women’s empowerment does indeed lead to better farming techniques and increased social and economic opportunities. Also, Chalaby’s piece summarized above cites an FAO report that estimates that, should women farmers have the same level of access to resources as men, society could reduce the number of people living in hunger by up to 150 million.

The first binding regional agreement to protect the rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters in LAC features provisions to prevent, investigate and punish attacks and threats made against environmental defenders.

Also from ODI, a book titled, ‘Empowering Adolescent Girls in Developing Countries: Gender Justice and Norm Change’ examines how discriminatory gender norms – grounded in “patriarchal vested interests” – can negatively affect young women’s lives. A Devex article by Kelli Rogers looks at additional reports on women’s economic empowerment released in recent months. Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Lakshmi Puri offers her perspective on rural women’s empowerment on IPS News, which ran a series of articles for International Women’s Day.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) published a short post flagging the importance of women and gender issues in corporate sustainability reporting, highlighting that quality reporting achieves greater levels of transparency and offers insight into potential discrepancies around hiring practices, parental leave, equal opportunity and discrimination.

In the US, the Center for Global Development assessed the gender gap at nonprofits working in the global development arena. The authors compiled a randomized database of global development funders and US-based international development think tanks, and analyzed data from self-reported tax documents. Although the authors caution that their study is limited by self-reported data and that their sample size is small, they find that less than a third of key/high paid employees are women, and that these women appear to be paid less than their male counterparts. Referencing and building on the study, a write-up on Devex outlines steps on how to “walk the talk on gender equality.”

Friends of Europe put out a factsheet titled, ‘Women, Peace and Security: Time to move from UN resolutions to national resolve.’ Released for an event by the same title held on 7 March, the publication reviews the benefits of including women in peace and security negotiations, calls for increased women’s participation in the security sector and describes how women can combat radicalization. Although not explicitly stated, the factsheet makes a connection between SDGs 5 (gender equality) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). It highlights that the majority of peace agreements since 1990 feature zero female signatories, and flags the “broader issue of low female representation in government.”

Gender is directly linked to peacebuilding, access to information and the protection of environmental rights, as women can face increased vulnerability and marginalization in environmental decision-making processes. The Ninth Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters (Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration) in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) convened from 28 February to 4 March in San José, Costa Rica. The meeting’s outcome generated substantial media buzz, as the Negotiating Committee achieved its objective of concluding negotiations, with representatives from 24 LAC countries adopting the binding regional agreement. The meeting worked from the eighth version of text, incorporating proposals from countries on the preliminary document following the Eighth Meeting as a basis for the negotiations. The Report of the Eighth Meeting, which was held from 27 November to 1 December 2017 in Santiago, Chile, is available, and further background on the Principle 10 negotiation process is here (ECLAC) and here (SDG Knowledge Hub).

The Principle 10 negotiation outcome is particularly noteworthy as it formalizes environmental protection alongside that of human rights. Carole Excell highlights the importance of the two dimensions in a statement released by the World Resources Institute (WRI), noting that the legally binding nature of the agreement “will help prevent and punish threats and attacks against environmental defenders.” A WRI blog post notes that four environmental activists were killed per week in 2017, with the LAC region being the most dangerous. In addition to recognizing, protecting and promoting the rights of environmental defenders, the binding regional agreement features provisions to prevent, investigate and punish attacks and threats made against them.

Alongside the meeting, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), released a publication titled, ‘Access to Information, Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean: Towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’ The document builds on a version released in 2013. It reviews these topics and the interlinkages between Principle 10 and the SDGs, particularly Goal 16, outlining how the status of access rights in environmental issues has evolved in the LAC region, describing recent progress and flagging the specific laws and constitutional articles in LAC countries that cover rights to information and a healthy environment. The report separately considers public participation in decision making around projects, activities, the development of standards and policies, democracy mechanisms used in environmental matters, indigenous peoples’ participation and access to justice.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.


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