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Aspen Institute International Conference

Statement by the Director-General, Ms Jan Beagle

Engaging the Global South: the role of women in addressing key challenges
14 February 2024
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy

It is a pleasure to join you today to discuss these important, urgent and interconnected issues.

My thanks to the Aspen Institute Italia, Women in International Security Italy, and of course the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for organizing this timely discussion.

As the only global intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to promoting the rule of law to advance peace and sustainable development, IDLO strongly believes that gender equality is a fundamental to addressing all the complex intersecting global challenges we are discussing, including the climate crisis and transforming the global energy system.

Our experience has shown us that climate change is not merely an environmental challenge. It is fundamentally a crisis of justice. It amplifies existing inequalities and poses threats to human rights, security, and development in every part of the world.

And the climate crisis is not gender neutral.

Women and girls are often hit first, and worst, by the effects of climate change and energy insecurity.

Poverty, including energy poverty, affects women and girls disproportionally. Rights to land and natural resources, central to the lives and livelihoods of many women, are insufficiently protected by law and increasingly disrupted by climate change.

Women also face higher rates of violence during climate-related crises and instability.

And discriminatory laws and unequal access to justice, patriarchal norms, and exclusion from decision making, further exacerbate their vulnerability.

We see similar exclusion and underrepresentation in the energy sector.

A recent study found that only one third of national energy frameworks across 137 countries included gender related considerations.

A survey of 190 countries found that women make up just 16% of the global energy workforce and hold only 11% of ministerial positions governing energy, natural resources and mining. Not only are there fewer women in the sector, but there is a serious gender wage gap.

There are indications that such gender inequality is making things worse.

According to the World Economic Forum, countries where women are excluded from decision-making have increased levels of environmental degradation, while having more women in government correlates positively with reduced carbon emissions . The rule of law can be a powerful force for gender equality and help catalyse progress towards greener, more sustainable economies.

For these reasons, IDLO works to promote an explicitly feminist approach to addressing climate change, and the transition to sustainable energy.

Let me share three ways in which we do this.

First, we work to empower women and girls, at national and community levels, to realise their environmental rights and actively participate in developing the legal and policy frameworks that will affect them.

In Kenya, for example, IDLO is supporting county governments to develop systems governing climate change and natural resource management.

This work is informed by public participation forums with key roles for women leaders and women-led civil society organizations.

These women are also involved in overseeing implementation and reporting against environmental indicators. So women are agents of change and not just passive consumers of energy.

Second, we strengthen legal and regulatory frameworks, and build institutional capacity, to eliminate discrimination and ensure greater responsiveness to the needs of women and girls.

In Burkina Faso and the Philippines, for instance, IDLO is conducting gender assessments of climate and environmental legislation.

We are engaging with government ministries, law schools, and bar associations on removing barriers and integrating gender in the development and implementation of climate laws and policies.

And we support the development of independent gender-responsive justice systems that can protect the rights of women and girls.

We are providing guidance and training to judiciaries in Africa and Asia to strengthen their capacity to adjudicate complex climate and environmental issues through a human rights and gender lens.

This includes support for increasing the participation of women, not only as judges, prosecutors and lawyers, but also in customary and informal justice systems as mediators, customary court officials and paralegals.

Of course, the growing role of women within the energy workforce, and in leadership in the sector, will also be essential to drive change.

And third, we build the broadest possible partnerships. In particular, we support women leaders and women’s organizations to actively participate in climate decision-making processes.

At COP26, I was proud to sign the Glasgow Women’s Leadership Statement, calling for greater inclusion and effective participation and leadership of women and girls in climate action. We have built on this advocacy at COP27 and COP28, and through our leadership of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Feminist Action for Climate Justice.

The recent appointment of an all-male 28-member organizing committee for COP 29 - until the intervention of women advocates - underlines the continuing importance of this work.

Ending on a positive note, the energy transition is an opportunity to improve access for girls and women to technical training, skills development, high quality jobs and leadership positions – to create a truly inclusive workforce. We are already seeing this in the renewable energy industry. And clean energy can be transformative for gender equality.

Whole of society solutions involving governments, civil society, the private sector, international organizations, women and young people in all their diversity, and other stakeholders, will be essential going forward.

IDLO would argue that investment in the rule of law and the empowerment of women can help strengthen social contracts, create conditions for essential financing for adaptation and mitigation, and reduce the inequalities that are at the root of the many interlinked crises we are discussing today.

We hope that such an approach will guide the work of the G7 in 2024.

Finally, I would echo the remarks of the EU Ambassador on the need to strengthen inclusive multilateralism. IDLO has contributed to the development of the Pact for the Future and will continue to participate in these important discussions.

IDLO will be happy to contribute our experience with the continuing development of gender-responsive legal and policy frameworks, as proposed by the representative of FAO in the previous session.