Statement by ARROW and Partners on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, at the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco
The 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has begun from 7 to 18 November in Marrakech, Morocco. This comes at the heels of the early entry into force of the historic Paris Agreement (PA) on 4 November which marks as well the achievement of the double threshold for entry into force of the PA – meaning that at least 55 Parties to the Convention which account for in total for at least an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification or acceptance. As of now, 97 of the 197 Parties to the Convention have ratified the Agreement.
While the celebrations have begun on what marks a historical achievement and one which puts us on the right footing for saving the planet for the future, we pause for a moment to face the reality. The stark reality is that COP22 is happening against the backdrop of a newly released ‘Emissions Gap Report 2016’ by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which says that the world is still heading for a temperature rise of 2.90C to 3.40C this century, even with the Parties intended nationally determined contributions [INDCs] for the PA and that in 2030, emissions targets will be 12 to 14 gigatonnes above levels needed to limit global warming to 2oC! For the Asia region, the reality is that 2015 and 2016 have been hottest years on record and with the El Niño effect this has been made worse.
COP22 is where the Parties will agree on the implementation mechanisms of the PA. We urge our Asia Pacific Parties to keep people at the centre of their negotiations. The battle to safeguard the future of the planet begins with safeguarding the health of its people. ARROW and our partners working on exploring the interlinkages between women’s health, in particular sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Asia, found that the poor and marginalised women are most at threat from climate change. SHRH is often neglected in the context of climate change. For example, SRHR is not incorporated into most countries’ National Climate Change Policies and National Adaptation Plan of Actions (NAPAs). Hence, there is an urgent need that girls and women’s health, especially SRHR is prioritised in countries’ NAPAs as well as other climate change policies and strategies.
As the PA is considered not just an environment treaty, but also a health treaty with its central reference to human right, including right to health. Hence, we call the Parties to address the impact of climate change on women’s health, including SRHR, in order to build a more climate-resilient community in Asia and the rest of the world. We call the Parties to:
- Organise and equip young girls and women with knowledge, skills and technologies for addressing the impact of climate change on women’s health during disaster and diversifying options for better adaptation to prevent women’s morbidity and mortality.
- Strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigation measures to prepare communities, especially the women, for enhanced and efficient natural resources management, particularly food security, clean water source, and access to health care services. The language and terms on climate change used should be that which are understood by the local communities, particularly the women, instead of technical terms and jargons.
- Reduce the inequality, including those due to harmful cultural practices, in accessing health care services by women and girls, especially those from remote areas and marginalised populations. This is because research has found that resilience is “seen to be present in households and communities when individuals can access equitably physical, social, cultural and other resources.”[i]
- UN and development partners to collaborate with local NGOs and CBOs. The latter could be mobilised for advocacy and massive awareness on the impact of climate change on women’s health, including SRHS, ways of mitigating them and addressing them. These advocacy and awareness campaigns can complement the government’s effort.
- Emphasise women’s health, including SRHR, through rights-based policy framework and support CSOs to create awareness among the community of their rights and hold the government central bodies/provincial/district authorities accountable.
- All UN agencies to work together, instead of working in silos, to provide technical and financial assistance to countries to revise their NAPAs to include women’s health as a priority area as well as to ensure its implementation.
- Funding to support future research on the interlinkages of climate change and women’s health, including SRHR, as very little data and information are available in most countries in Asia. There is a need to conduct research among marginalised and vulnerable women populations as well as comprehensive studies on gender-differentiated impacts of climate change with particular focus on gender differences in capabilities to cope with climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, and to provide evidence on climate change and women’s health to help policy-makers incorporate the area into the National Policy on Climate Change/NAPA.
Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Huvadhoo Aid (Maldives), Khan Foundation (Bangladesh), PATH Foundation (Philippines), Penita Initiative (Malaysia), Sindh Community Foundation (Pakistan), University of Health Sciences (Lao PDR), Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (Nepal), Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan (Indonesia)
ARROW coordinates a regional partnership that is working together on building the interlinkages of climate change and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
[i] Smyth, I., and Sweetman, C. (2015). Introduction: Gender and Resilience. Gender and Development, Vol.23, No.3, 405-414.