IUCN instrumental in UN strategy on gender and desertification

01 April 2011 | News story

IUCN recently hosted a key meeting in Bonn, Germany, on mainstreaming gender in the United Nations’ work dealing with desertification.

The meeting was held at the request of the United Nations Convention on Combatting Desertification (UNCCD) in Bonn, Germany. It provided preparation for key talks between the three ‘Rio Conventions’ (on biodiversity, climate change and desertification) to be hosted by IUCN’s Gender Office in San Jose, Costa Rica.

“The development of a Convention-wide policy framework on gender is extremely important within the context of the UNCCD, as women in every part of the world face social constraints that reduce their productivity and limit their contributions to agricultural production, economic growth and the well-being of their families, communities and countries,” says Lorena Aguilar, IUCN Senior Global Gender Adviser. “Many dryland inhabitants depend directly upon a highly variable natural resource base for their livelihoods. As farmers, animal husbandry, workers and entrepreneurs, women make crucial contributions in agriculture and rural enterprises in drylands.”

Key members of staff from the UNCCD Secretariat attended the workshop, along with representatives from governments, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and civil society. IUCN previously concluded similar forward-looking meetings with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), amongst others.

According to FAO’s latest estimates, 925 million people are currently undernourished. Achieving sustainable development in drylands—home to millions of people worldwide—therefore has significant implications for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as it will be impossible to halve world poverty and hunger by 2015 unless life is improved for the poor people of the drylands.

Closing the gender gap in agricultural yields could bring that number down by as much as 100–150 million people, according to FAOs 2011 report on the state of the world’s food and agriculture. The yield gap between men and women averages around 20%–30% and most research finds that the gap is due to differences in resource use. Bringing yields on the land farmed by women up to the levels achieved by men would increase agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5% to 4%. Increasing production by this amount could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by around 12%–17%.

If the Gender Policy Framework is adopted by governments at the 10th Meeting of the Parties to the Convention later this year, all three MEAs will, for the first time since their establishment, have in place well-defined, convention-specific strategies on gender with achievable indicators and objectives. This will significantly enhance the convention’s ability to move forward on key issues such as poverty reduction, sustainable development, conservation of biodiversity, and increasing the resilience of vulnerable communities directly affected by the negative impacts of climate change.
 

More information on the UNCCD may be found on www.unccd.int.