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October 2004

Gender Perspectives on the Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification

by Yianna Lambrou
and Regina Laub
Gender and Development Service
FAO Gender and Population Division

The United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), known as the Rio Conventions, are the three main international legally-binding agreements for sustainable development. They represent the legal outcome of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

The agreement signed by heads of state on that occasion, Agenda 21, which identifies the priority action for sustainable development, states clearly that empowerment of women and men is indispensable for sustainable development. However, throughout the convention texts and implementation mechanisms, the gender perspective of Agenda 21 seems to have been unevenly upheld. The aim of this paper is to reassert that a gender perspective is relevant in the case of these Conventions from two points of view:

  • Successful implementation of each convention requires a solid understanding of gender-specific relationship to environmental resources of women and men, as well as an understanding of gender specific impacts of, and on, environmental degradation


  • Successful implementation of each convention will depend on participation of affected populations, women and men. This equal participation of women, given prevailing practices worldwide, cannot be taken for granted.

The paper provides a gender-sensitive perspective on the three Rio Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Desertification. First, the Rio conventions are placed in their historical context and their administrative and financial framework. Secondly, the main gender issues relevant to the three conventions are exposed. A comparative overview of the level of gender mainstreaming in each of the international instruments relating to the Rio Conventions at study here is given. The essay concludes with a review of a few key issues in convention implementation, in relationship with gender.

Click here to view the document (Word format -220 KB).

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