Statement submitted by Pacific Elders’ Voice on the occasion of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Sixty-sixth session

The Pacific Elders’ Voice is an independent group of Pacific people who have been leaders in the region.

Our purpose is to provide guidance and advice that will strengthen Pacific resilience to current and future environmental, security, and human rights threats. We provide constructive policy inputs for current and future challenges and opportunities facing the Pacific.

The PEV notes that the Commission on the Status of Women, at its sixty-sixth session, will consider as its priority theme “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”, and is a follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

The PEV provides this statement in the context of Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS), recognised as not only amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and disasters, but with some of the highest cases of gender inequality, sex discrimination and violence against women and girls.

We recognise that whilst many International legal frameworks and commitments exist, their implementation at the national level, aimed at making a real difference in the lives of women and girls, is still wanting.

Climate change also poses an existential threat to many PSIDS, especially the atoll countries, which are least responsible for the current crisis. The Pacific Islands are also highly prone to natural disasters.

Women and girls already bear the brunt of immediate and long-lasting impacts of environmental degradation, natural disasters and changing climates. Most women (and men) in the Pacific islands live in coastal areas, consistently threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion, and many have been forced to relocate or even migrate. It is also noted that rates of gender-based violence often increase following natural disasters.

The majority of the world’s poor are women who face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of the climate crisis in situations of poverty. In Pacific Island Countries climate change has a greater impact on women and girls who are reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods. Natural disasters and associated problems affecting families and communities can contribute to increased stress which often lead to increased aggression and violence. It is important therefore to recognise the gender-specific impacts of the climate crisis, often compounded by conflicts, and to include these meaningfully in efforts to build resilience to climate change and disasters.

We also call upon governments to accelerate women’s economic empowerment by upholding their commitments and invigorating their efforts to repeal and/or amend all sex discriminatory laws without exception (such as for religious or customary law) and, that any barriers to education, employment, finance or technology should be immediately addressed.

It is also important that International financial institutions should ensure that their funds actually reach the most vulnerable and provide them with, equitable and gender-responsive access to essential services, including healthcare, food, housing, water, sanitation, education, and sustainable livelihoods.

Finally, we reiterate the call for greater “political will” to act. The Covid epidemic has further increased vulnerabilities, especially amongst women and girls, and this requires gender- transformative approaches in order to ensure that future environmental, security and human rights challenges are adequately addressed because gender justice and climate justice are inextricably linked.

This is a collective statement from Pacific Elders’ Voice. For further information, please contact us.

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