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Click here for the Co-Chairs' Summary 
on the discussions held at the conference

Article published in the February issue of the "Network 2002" newsletter*

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Gender Perspectives for Earth Summit 2002 - Energy; Transport; Information for Decision-Making

55 participants from 12 countries, including 13 representatives from Developing Countries and Countries in Transition attended an international expert conference on "Gender Perspectives for Earth Summit 2002", held in Berlin, Germany, 10-12 January 2001. They brought together a wealth of knowledge and expertise from various backgrounds – NGOs and women's organisations, grassroots activists, academics and policy-makers. The conference was jointly hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the Heinrich Boell Foundation. Substantive coordination was provided by UNED Forum.

The conference was part of the preparatory process towards Earth Summit 2002, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The goal was to identify more clearly the linkages between gender and environment issues and to develop concrete policy recommendations on gender perspectives from developing and developed countries on three of the issues to be discussed at CSD-9 in April 2001 – energy, transport, information for decision making and participation (incl. indicators for sustainable development). The workshop outcomes will be fed into the CSD-9 process aiming to ensure gender mainstreaming of the decision on these issues. Discussions also focused on women’s priorities and possible preparatory strategies for Earth Summit 2002.

The need for equitable involvement of women in political decision-making processes and in implementing Agenda 21, the Rio Conventions and the CSD decisions has been reaffirmed over and over again. The Berlin conference contributed to clarifying the value added of gender mainstreaming in sustainable development decision-making by looking at gender as one of the social categories impacting significantly on people's knowledge, values, emotions and behaviour. Women involved in policy-making processes expressed the need to contribute their expertise and to deliver recommendations within the existing framework of policy-making as well as the need to fundamentally question the current paradigm. It was acknowledged that a dual approach is needed in order to achieve a more holistic approach to policy making by arguing for a different framework on the one hand, as well as working for change within the present framework. The dominating current paradigm - ‘economism’ - is seen to have significantly contributed to bringing about the environmental, social and economic crises all over the world.

Another fundamental challenge that appeared throughout the discussions revolved around the great need to further develop a concrete and lively common vision of sustainable development and gender justice.

In each session key issues concerning knowledge and research gaps were identified, and commonalities and differences between developing and developed countries were discussed with a view on how to learn from each other and concrete policy recommendations were formulated. Discussions were prepared through background papers covering the perspectives from developing and developed countries, respectively (see www.earthsummit2002.org/workshop).

In the sessions on energy, key recommendations for CSD-9 included developing guidelines from a gender perspective for investment policies in the energy sector; ensuring that all energy-related research includes a gender and sustainable development analysis made by gender-balanced teams; developing advocacy tools to link poverty, energy and gender; requesting necessary resources for national and regional processes to implement decisions.

One of the issues discussed in the session on transport was the need to improve our definition and understanding of mobility in order to better reflect women's lives. Mobility for women characteristically consists of diverse patterns of a multitude of tasks and related trips. In this definition the “caring economy” needs to be taken into account, based on feminist economic analysis. An alternative vision to the current system including a gender perspective should be created. A prominent point in this context is the question of priorities – gender justice or sustainable development? As providing the same access and mobility to everybody as is accessible to men in the North, is not a sustainable solution. Changes are need not only to provide more access to women and people in developing countries, but for men and consumers in the North to change their behavior and more sustainable means of transport being provided to everyone.

The discussion on indicators and information for decision-making identified priority areas which need further work in relation to gender considerations. A considerable digital divide in the world has to be taken into consideration: 90 % of the world's population does not have access to the internet, especially in developing countries women are particularly underrepresented. Women and women's organisations must participate in the development of social-environmental information systems. Equal access by women to information technology and its application in interactive decision-making for sustainable development need to be ensured. Key issues, such as women's health, the gender division of labour, the participation of women in decision-making bodies and budget allocation to gender related issues need to be integrated into sustainability indicator systems.

Agenda 21 will not be reopened at the Earth Summit 2002, but new issues are being brought into the discussions and women need to be pro-active with regard to their priorities. Women's strategies towards Earth Summit 2002 could be facilitated by a small coordinating team of experienced organisations, including the CSD NGO Women's Caucus, with a broader forum of interested groups around the coordinating team to facilitate effective communication and concerted efforts. Task Forces for certain areas should be formed. Preliminary suggestions include the formation of an advocacy, a host country, a media and a parallel event task force. The idea of developing an updated Women's Action Agenda for a Healthy Planet as a comprehensive statement for 2002 found widespread support among the participants and is being lead by REDEH Brazil / WEDO, with a small coordinating team from other organisations.

The conference produced a co-chairs summary which will be available by 25th January. The full report (PDF) will be published in February 2001.

Contact: Jasmin Enayati (jenayati@earthsummit2002.org) and Minu Hemmati (minush@aol.com) at UNED Forum.

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* Network 2002 is a monthly electronic newsletter being produced by UNED Forum in the lead up to the Earth Summit, with regular updates from various stakeholders on summit preparations and relevant meetings. 
Go to http://www.earthsummit2002.org/es/newsletter/default.htm to download back issues or contact Toby Middleton at tmiddleton@earthsummit2002.org