CHENNAI: 80% of the world’s resources are looked after, consolidated by women across the globe. If that is not an agenda that Women Peace and Security Council should look at — because there is so much violence against them — I don’t know what else we should be looking at,” remarked scholar and peace activist Asha Hans, in the latest edition of Prajnya’s Gender Talks series, throwing light on the dismal state of progress at the intersection of gender and climate change.
While global organisations and councils have long since recognised both climate change and women’s security as subjects of change, Asha laid out the reality of how one is rarely seen in conjuncture with the other — in an illuminating conversation on the subject of Gender, Climate Change and Securitisation.
“What kind of frameworks do we have in place? Where climate change is concerned, we have the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The next conference is coming up in Scotland next month. But the two important ones that took place earlier were the one in Kyoto and the more recent one in Paris. Where UNFCCC is concerned, gender seems to be missing. It was only in 2014 that it was decided that gender was important but it still remains on the edge,” she explained. On the other hand, the Women Peace and Security Council — while an important element in the global response to gendered issues — does not prefer to include matters concerning climate change as part of its agenda, she added.
Concern in the face of crisis
Yet, Asha reasoned, this intersectionality is all the more important, given two rather recent developments around the world — the return of colonialism (a new version of it) and the strengthening of militarisation (which many like her have been fighting against). Both these factors have proven to affect women disproportionately and it’s no different now, she went on to explain. “Colonialism is happening in places like the Arctic; and there, it’s given rise to a number of issues. If you remember your International Relations, you’ll also remember the role of the Suez Canal in the increase of colonialism; it cut short the way to countries like India, where there were plenty of resources, and extraction politics became very important. In the same way, the melting of the Arctic is cutting short the way to many places. Secondly, if you look at the map of the Arctic, it is divided.
These are not countries; it is divided by the security council members and these Northern countries access the resources. The resources of the Arctic is not just fish, it’s oil and minerals. What happens when that kind of colonialism comes up? It is the women who finally suffer. And one of the groups of women which I think the WPS agenda should look at — not just in the Arctic but across the world — is the indigenous women,” she elaborated. While this form of imperialism has affected people in the Arctic, back home, it reflects in the damage done to the life and livelihood of tribal women in the mining belt.
The other agenda of interest is the security council countries looking towards an increase in militarisation, based on the stand that climate change is affecting their defence. “We know that huge amounts of money is being spent on militarisation. When that happens, you do not spend on health, education, livelihood and such. And the pandemic has shown us just that. Yet, every country is coming up with an increase in budget and the keyword is climate change. Because we know climate change affects women, militarisation affects women, it is something that we need to talk about and be dealing with. Under 1325 (UN resolution on Women Peace and Security), countries have to give a national action plan where they say what they are doing about Women Peace and Security. India, of course, doesn’t have a national plan because we don’t believe that there are conflict regions,” she pointed out.
The way forward
Yet, how do we go about bringing this intersection of concern to the fore, beyond writings and academic pursuit; especially when the immense work that happens at the grassroots does not get any representation in policymaking spheres of influence. How do we go about changing the mindset of people, of entire countries? She drew influence from the speech Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, delivered at the United Nations General Debate last month.
“She was in the General Assembly, which was nearly empty. She made the point that it was not only empty, the people who were there were not leaders but bureaucrats. The importance of the United Nations has become so limited that no one takes it seriously. This has been one of the greatest barriers to our work at WPS. So Mia said, “Who will stand up for all those millions who have died because of the climate crisis? Who will stand up for small and developing states who need 1.5° to survive? Who will stand up, not with a little token but with real progress? How many more hurricanes must destroy, locusts devour and islets submerged before we realise that 100 billion in climate finance is simply not enough….The answer is we are waiting for urgent, global, moral, strategic leadership...
The answer is that we have the means to invest in protecting the most vulnerable to our changing climate but we chose not to. It is not because we don’t have enough; it is because we do not have the will to distribute that which we have.” This in itself gives you a whole idea of climate change and the dangers we are facing in the context of women who are affected by it. So, these are the kind of things we need to look at and put on our agendas of WPS,” she concluded, inviting the crowd gathered for the discussion to carry the work forward in any way they can.