Background Papers


Gender Perspectives for Earth Summit 2002.

Side event at CSD Intersessional, 16 March 2001

Presentation by Minu Hemmati, UNED Forum & CSD NGO Women’s Caucus


I would like to flag up a few points with regard to information for decision-making and participation and the Earth Summit 2002 process.

The approach

But let me begin with some comments on the approach taken for the Berlin Conference – and I want to thank the German Government for their initiative and support and the Heinrich Boell Foundation for their support. Our experience at the CSD over the last few years has been that on the one hand, governments are in most cases quite open for discussions on women’s issue, gender mainstreaming, etc. On the other hand, though, there is a lack of substantive input on the gender aspects of the various issues that the CSD has been addressing. It might be available within governments but not necessarily in the departments that are involved with the CSD process.

These factors contribute to CSD decisions containing typical sentences such as “.., particularly women” or: ”…, taking into account the needs of special (or: vulnerable) groups such as women, youth, elderly, disabled..”. Such sentences are not bad – but they don’t help much either. They don’t serve those who go and work with a CSD decision, e.g. in their national advocacy.

Yet, there is a lot of data and research “out there” – much more than 10 years ago, which can give us a clearer picture of gender aspects of different areas of sustainable development.

We felt it was timely to try and contribute such expertise, which would allow governments to more consider their recommendations to the various bodies and groups in more detail, which are engaged in implementation. This also involved gathering a slightly different group of people – teaming up researchers and academics with international advocacy experts and grassroots women’s groups.

Information for Decision-making and Participation

I would like to join a number of people / governments in pointing out that the discussion on information for decision-making and participation this week has too much been focused on the question of indicators. This aspect has dominated an exchange, which should have been much broader. Particularly from a women’s perspective, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed in more depth – and I want to mention but a few:

The development of modern information and communication technologies, particularly the Internet, has generated new and incomparable opportunities for many people to access information. However, due to the digital divide between and within countries, there are significant gaps of access to information and knowledge as well as opportunities for participation, particularly between North and South and between women and men. The UNDP Human Development Report 1999, for example, has been examining the global digital divide. UNED has done some work on the gender gap and on the links between Internet connectivity and political participation. There is a significant gender gap. And there are linkages between access and participation. I am not saying that access leads to participation but there is evidence that easy access can make it easier for people to participate and get involved politically – at various levels.

We are very worried about the growing trend towards the commercialisation of information previously held in the public domain. We fully support the recommendation in the Secretary Generals report addressing this issue. However, we feel it does not go far enough. We suggest that the CSD requests UNCTAD to develop guidelines for governments on how to adequately deal with trends of commercialisation of information.

A big problem involving a multitude of aspects is the question of overcoming barriers to women's access to information and participation in sustainable development. Addressing this requires a rigorous analysis of women's needs at the different levels in each country.

Illiteracy and extreme poverty are fundamental problems that prevent women's full engagement in civic participation, but there are also barriers relating to childcare needs, meeting hours and appropriate transportation encouraging women's participation and making it possible, even in developed countries.

Overcoming women's apathy and lack of understanding of government processes means that special types of outreach must creatively involve women in all phases of program development and design. Useful strategies include, for example:

Appropriate communication strategies: public interest groups need to be empowered to serve as intermediaries of relevant information on gender and sustainable development policies.

Formal and informal education integrating gender aspects into environmental or sustainable development education.

Reach out to young women to guide them towards careers that will increase their chances of moving into important roles as decision makers in environment and sustainable development.

Local Agenda 21 planning processes represent another important mechanism through which gender sensitive strategies can be implemented. The municipal level also offers the opportunity for building stronger alliances among stakeholders.

Effective gender analysis does more than assure women's participation in sustainable development. It reflects the correct information on how resources are allocated between men and women. It highlights constraints imposed by women's socially-constructed and confined roles. And it proposes policies aiming to empower women.

Gender expertise needs to be integrated into research; scientific advisory bodies; and environmental impact assessments (EIAs). For example, women and women's NGOs must participate in the development of social-environmental information systems. Social monitoring must be integrated into environmental monitoring; institutions involved in designing environmental monitoring should collaborate with social scientists and gender experts to further such integration.


Developing indicators should be done based on an interactive approach, and women should be involved in developing indicators for specific communities in terms of sustainable development. Public roundtables may bring together people with a wide range of skills and viewpoints, with individuals encouraged to put aside their individual narrow perspectives and give thought to what types of measures would be needed to determine how sustainable their community will be in the long term, e.g. 50 years. In this weeks debate, indicators have been criticised for being an “academic” or an “abstract” exercise. On contrast, they can be very lively and concrete tools, for example, if developed at the community level – e.g. in Local Agenda 21 processes. Indicators that directly relate to peoples everyday lives can be powerful instruments to raise awareness and change behaviour.

On gender-sensitive indicators: Gender equity is an important component of social equity, which in turn is one of the three pillars of sustainable development. Therefore, information on gender equity must be covered by any set of indicators aiming to capture the state of sustainable development.

With regard to each area of environment and development, we need to identify if there is a need to differentiate information by social categories (such as age, income level, education, gender, ethnic group, rural/urban, etc.). Some of these will be “high-impact categories”, that is social categories which significantly impact the area in question. Gender is a high-impact category with regard to, for example: Income level; education; power / decision-making; and access to, ownership and control of natural resources (e.g. land).

The CSD Indicators of Sustainable Development include only one indicator (ratio of female wage to male wage) specifically relating to gender – and that is a hell of a variable to measure.

The working group preparing this list shortened the list of indicators from 134 to 58. While a series of the social indicators in the final list mention disaggregating statistics by gender, out of an original working list at least seven useful indicators related to gender were cut.

We believe that gender disaggregated data need to be integrated into any set or core set of indicators for sustainable development. The CSD should conduct a gender review of the current CSD set of indicators and produce a revised version.

This can build on existing gender sensitive indicators developed for various areas of sustainable development. Corral & Ransom (2000) have, in their background paper to the Berlin Conference, undertaken a review of indicators in the area of women / gender and sustainable development which have been developed since the Rio Earth Summit by a number of organisations at various levels.

Among those which should be considered are indicators on participation in environmental decision making; extent of community involvement; women's access and ease of access to water; access to alternative or improved energy sources; involvement in energy planning and implementation; involvement in forestry activities; equity of access to transport and housing; environmental health; access to land; access to credit.

Other the key issues that need to be included are: the gender division of labour (including paid and unpaid work); gender budget analysis - budget allocation to gender related issues in the field of sustainable development.

We have heard a lot of criticism on indicators and on gender disaggregated data pointing out that high costs are involved in obtaining the data and/or analysing them. However, many gender disaggregated data are indeed available at the national level – but not necessarily in all governmentt departments. There is a need for departments to collaborate and share their data.

At the international level, there are data from the HDR, the ILO Annual Statistics, the governments and alternative reports to Beijing+5; there will hopefully be more from WDR and GEO 2002, etc. However, there is a need to integrate these data into the analysis that will be produced towards the Summit. Governments and UN need to invest in the necessary capacity for that integration.

Towards Earth Summit 2002

Let me conclude with a few remarks on the process towards Earth Summit 2002:

Gender analysis and policy development should focus on specific issues where gender is a high-impact category. Governments as well as stakeholders need to bring the necessary expertise into the process and make the relevant information available.

There is a lot of space for stakeholder involvement in the process. Having pioneered the multi-stakeholder dialogues at the CSD, the preparations for the Summit include dialogues at the various PrepComs and global thematic round tables. We very much welcome this. However, I want to make two critical remarks:

Firstly, over the last few years, women have not once been invited to be part of the MS dialogue process as one of the Major Groups. We believe that the question of who is dialoguing should be based on consultation with stakeholders and an analysis of which are the high-impact categories. With regard to agriculture, transport and energy, one can certainly argue the case for gender being a very important category. We hope that for the 2002 process, decision-making on who will be invited to dialogue and thus inform governments will be a) based on such analysis and b) be made more transparent.

Secondly, I would suggest to do more than listen to stakeholders – challenge them with regard to implementation and get concrete projects going as results of CSD meetings and the Summit itself. I could imagine a approach comprising several steps: beginning with stakeholder dialogues which inform the debate, moving into intergovernmental negotiations, and discussing with stakeholders what their contribution to implementation will be, and what partnerships they will build to make such contributions.

Again, women as a Major Group need to be part of such stakeholder involvement - for the benefit of informed decision-making and implementation.

Thank you.



International Conference "Gender Perspectives for Earth Summit 2002 - Energy; Transport; Information for Decision-Making". Berlin, 10-12 January 2001. Co-Chair's Summary of the Discussions. Available at www.earthsummit2002.org/workshop

Thais Corral & Pamela Ransom, 2000. Women and Information for participation and decision-Making in Sustainable Development in Developing Countries. Background paper for the workshop “Gender Perspectives for Earth Summit 2002”. Available at www.earthsummit2002.org/workshop

Minu Hemmati (with Felix Dodds, Jasmin Enayati & Jan McHarry), 2001. A Methodological Framework for Multi-Stakeholder Processes. Draft UNED Forum Report at www.earthsummit2002.org/msp

Markus Paul, 2000. Global Internet Connectivity. Status, Indicators and Use in Developing and Developed Countries. UNED Forum report at http://www.unedforum.org/publi/connectivity/connreport.htm

Irmgard Schultz, 2001. Presentation at the workshop “Gender Perspectives for Earth Summit 2002”. Available at www.earthsummit2002.org/workshop

UNIFEM, 2000. Progress of the World's Women Report 2000, at http://www.unifem.undp.org/progressww/2000/index.html

UN Statistical Division, 2000. The World’s Women 2000:Progress and Statistics. UN: New York