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Good Practices Brochure: Gender, Climate Change and Humanitarian Action

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Introduction

Asia and the Pacific is the most vulnerable region in the world to disaster impacts, complicated by numerous complex emergencies and protracted humanitarian crises. Over the past decade, approximately 80 per cent of disaster-related displacements worldwide have occurred in the Asia-Pacific region. The region is also the most densely populated in the world, and humanitarian agencies are struggling with the pervasive and compounding effects of climate change that undermine disaster preparedness and the response to humanitarian crises. Due to climate change, the frequency, severity and impact of weather-related disasters will continue to magnify. Recent evidence indicates that climate change has helped drive a fivefold increase in the number of weather-related disasters over the past 50 years, affecting 6.9 billion people and killing more than 2 million – the majority of whom live in Asia and the Pacific, almost all of whom were victims of water-related disasters and more than half of whom were women and girls. Although disaster resilience has been strengthened, and fewer people are dying of weather-related disasters, only a moderate decline has been noted in the number of people affected per year, and the economic damages remain overwhelming. Asian economies are forecasted to be the hardest hit worldwide by the impacts of climate change, with a 5.5 per cent reduction in gross domestic product by 2050 in the best-case scenario and a 26.5 per cent reduction in the severe scenario, with the most negatively impacted countries often the ones with the least resources to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

In the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), humanitarian needs and human vulnerabilities, particularly for women and girls, have grown across the region owing to the impact of the pandemic on health, society and economies. The convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change, highlights the increasingly complex and inter-connected ways in which disaster related risks in Asia and the Pacific have expanded, particularly for nations grappling with concurrent conflict and crises. Humanitarian action needs to evolve to help people to adapt to the changing climate and the complexity of the disaster risk landscape. As a threat multiplier, climate change can exacerbate disruptions caused by conflict and inflame existing social, economic and environmental risks, which could lead to further conflict. Within this context, the capacity of populations to cope with these changes is limited and underscored by pre-existing inequalities based on gender, ability/disability, income, education and social status. Vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) people, especially those with intersecting vulnerabilities, experience crises differently and they often face disproportionate impacts (see figure 1), but they are also capable yet underrecognized drivers of preparedness and response efforts. A growing body of research suggests women and girls are more likely than men and boys to die in heatwaves in China and India, and in tropical cyclones in Bangladesh and the Philippines, and to suffer poor mental health, sexual and reproductive health challenges, intimate partner violence, and food insecurity following extreme weather events. Evidence also indicates that women’s empowerment and advancing gender equality can deliver results across a variety of sectors, including food and economic security, health and environmentally friendly decision-making at household and national levels. Ignoring women’s roles as decision-makers, stakeholders, educators, carers and experts will dramatically limit the resilience and adaptive capacity of communities to climate change.

As environmental events increase in intensity and severity, the impact on future generations must be considered and mitigated. Hard won gains in girls’ education and empowerment as well as community access to food and safe water is threatened. In order to protect the health, well-being and rights of children and adolescents, action is required now. A recent UNICEF poll found that 62 per cent of young people count on Government action to address climate change. Today, half a billion children live in flood-prone areas, where they are vulnerable to displacement and the disruption of services. Children and families who are already disadvantaged by poverty – those with the fewest resources to cope with crises – are likely to face many of the most immediate dangers of climate change.

The concurrence of climate emergencies with other humanitarian situations makes a shift from immediate humanitarian responses to more long-term solutions more complex, yet critical. Inclusive and climate aware humanitarian policies that reduce the vulnerability of women by addressing gender inequalities and its causes must be implemented. This brochure aims to provide practical guidance on including women and gender-diverse individuals in humanitarian programming and coordination by highlighting case studies that illustrate good practices and examples in humanitarian settings in Asia and the Pacific. The following good practice examples tackle humanitarian, environmental and development problems by strengthening climate resilience and gender equality through integrated approaches that combine humanitarian aims with the need for climate action.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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