On March 10, UNDP conducted a virtual webinar on “Climate change, human security and women’s leadership in the Arab States” to mark International Women’s Day in the region.
The webinar emphasized the value of women’s equal leadership in addressing climate change and leading climate action to contribute to human security, especially in conflict and displacement settings.
The sessions of the webinar aimed to present the risks posed by climate change on human security, in particular on women in disadvantaged situations, and highlight successful examples where women in the region have been true agents of change in implementing climate-related solutions that have translated to durable solutions, and contributed to stability and peacebuilding.
Around 100 participants from 26 countries, attended the event online, representing UN agencies, environmental authorities, academia, media, civil society organizations (CSOs), and national commissions for women in the region. The webinar was opened by Dr. Khalida Bouzar, Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States, who highlighted that while women’s political and economic representation in the Arab region has made some progress, the region still lags behind others.
“We know that women are leading at the community level, including in key areas of crisis response, and on climate change, and we have many examples of this across the region. The key is not only to support the increase of women’s leadership at national levels, it is also to acknowledge and support the women’s leadership that is in place across the region at community levels, including in the most difficult contexts”, stressed Dr. Bouzar.
The Deputy Technical Director at the Arab Water Council Heba Al-Hariry presented perspectives from the Arab States region on climate, migration, and gender, highlighting that climate security issues call for gender-response approaches to reduce disparities and address the needs of affected vulnerable communities, especially women and socially marginalized groups.
The discussion also focused on climate related challenges faced by refugee and internally displaced women in the region. At least a third of the refugee households in the Arab States are female-headed households which are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, forced displacement, and the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar stressed that refugee and internally displaced women can be active agents of change in supporting climate action given their role in managing food, water and energy resources at the household level. Climate related solutions can not only address the specific socio-economic challenges of displaced women, but they can also play an important role in enhancing social cohesion, as well as making a positive contribution to gender relations and climate change efforts.
The webinar also showcased examples of UNDP projects and programmes which have enabled women from Sudan and Iraq to lead climate solutions that address multiple dimensions of human security and therefore multiple sustainable development goals. In Iraq for instance, one of the region’s most climate vulnerable countries, UNDP supports the most vulnerable areas of the Hawizeh Marshes, which are considered an important source of eco-tourism, due to distinctive
cultural features and rich biodiversity. Over the past years, the area has been severely impacted by droughts, thus drying the marshland water, and influencing agriculture and livelihoods. The severe impact of climate change has also led men to leave their homes and seek jobs in the cities, forcing women to shoulder greater responsibilities to support their families. Flourishing eco-tourism creates job opportunities for vulnerable women and youth. It also encourages gender equality as it empowers women to engage in traditional industries that contribute to improving economic conditions of their families. Iraq’s marshland women also engage in traditional handcraft industries to support their households.
This webinar was a joint initiative by the Regional Project: “SDG Climate Facility: Climate Action for Human Security” which is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and the Gender Team in the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States. Follow the SDG Climate Facility on Twitter for more information.