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About Environment and Gender

UNECE is committed to gender equality and aligns its work with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Gender equality and the related Sustainable Development Goals are recognized both as goals in themselves and as a way of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. To ensure equal participation of male and female representatives in meetings, the UNECE Environment Division encourages member States to propose gender-balanced nomination of delegates in all its meetings. The UNECE Gender Action Plan guides all UNECE subprogrammes, including the Environment subprogramme. The Environment Division regularly reports on the implementation of activities in the current year as part of the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The gender dimension is incorporated into several programmes under the Environment Division. While promoting and raising awareness of the importance of taking gender perspectives into account is a key objective, many programmes go well beyond awareness-raising and are mainstreaming gender issues in the development of environmental policies.

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) and it Protocol on Water and Health

The 1999 UNECE/World Health Organization Protocol on Water and Health places specific emphasis on equitable access to water and sanitation.

Gender aspects are an important dimension of equitable access. For instance, the impact of lack of access to clean water and sanitation may be disproportionate on women. Women and girls require adequate water and sanitation facilities to manage menstruation hygienically – without access they face increased risk of infections thus undermining their health and right to education.

Women also face challenges to effective participation in decision-making processes: an important challenge since the involvement of women – with their special knowledge of resource management and the environment – can bring many benefits to water, sanitation and health measures.

Under this area of work, Parties to the Protocol have developed the Equitable Access Score-card. This is an analytical self-evaluation tool to help countries to identify problems in equitable access to water and sanitation and identify solutions to improve such access. Self-assessments of equitable access to water and sanitation have been completed in fourteen countries across the region.

In many countries, the application of the Equitable Access Score-card revealed gender disparities in access to sanitation facilities, especially in schools, and allowed Governments and stakeholders to develop concrete measures to improve problematic areas. For example, North Macedonia will work to improve menstrual hygiene management facilities in educational institutions, as part of Equitable Access Action Plans.

In 2022, Parties to the Protocol initiated the revision of the Equitable Access Score-card to allow the tool to capture the lessons learned in its over ten-year application process, the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergency situations. Under the framework of the revision process, more emphasis was given on assessing effective menstrual hygiene management in institutional settings, among other things such as assessing the emergency responsiveness of WASH service providers. After several revision rounds with countries, water regulators and civil society organizations the draft revised Score-card was published and piloted in Montenegro and Albania. The final revised Score-card will be launched in December 2024.

Gender is mainstreamed in the Water Convention’s programme of work to promote participation of both women and men in transboundary water cooperation. Countries are encouraged to ensure gender balanced participation in the Convention’s bodies, capacity building events, pilot projects and other activities. Gender considerations are included in publications developed under the Convention. The reporting on SDG Indicator 6.5.2 and under the Water Convention integrates gender-related questions.

Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Air Convention)

Within the Air Convention, the majority of officers, national representatives and participants in official meetings are women. Women chair three out of five official bodies of the Convention and 50 out of 75 national focal points for the Convention are women. There is a similar situation for experts from countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, notably those who are involved with capacity-building and awareness-raising activities. The high level of representation of women in Convention bodies and activities is continually encouraged. UNECE encourages member States to propose gender-balanced nominations of candidates to the periodic elections of officers (two-year terms of office).

Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) and Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs)

Women play a vital role in environmental management and development, and gender equality and women’s empowerment are key to securing environmental democracy. However, access to participation, information and justice in environmental issues can be limited or absent for women.

By establishing that sustainable development can be achieved only through inclusive public participation, the Aarhus Convention promotes without discrimination the rights of every person with regard to access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

All activities under the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) take gender aspects into consideration. The Work Programmes of the Aarhus Convention and PRTR for the years 2022-2025 provide equal opportunities for the participation of women and men. Currently, women chair the main decision-making bodies under the Convention and the Protocol. Currently, women chair the thematic session, the two Task Forces and the Compliance Committee under the Convention.

Education for Sustainable Development

UNECE Environment also works to promote gender within policymaking. The 2005 UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development stresses the importance of gender equity for sustainable development and identifies gender equity as a key theme of education for sustainable development.

The Steering Committee on Education for Sustainable Development gathers good practices and success stories related to gender equality in the education sector, organizes discussions to share experiences and achievements, and disseminates good practices regarding gender equality. Gender equality is also addressed during capacity-building activities to implement the Strategy.

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

The UNECE Environmental Monitoring and Assessment programme stresses the importance of data disaggregation, including by gender, in environmental monitoring, data collection,  production of environmental statistics, in regular environmental assessments as well as during capacity development activities. 

Environmental performance reviews

For over 20 years, the UNECE has carried out the environmental performance review programme. The reviews analyse policies on air protection, water and waste management and conservation of biodiversity, and provide recommendations on the areas to be improved. They also help to integrate environmental policies into sector-specific policies such as those in agriculture, energy, transport and health.

Gender issues are addressed in the environmental performance reviews, as a part of which the expert teams consider those aspects important for the countries reviewed. The following environmental performance reviews are the most comprehensive in terms of gender mainstreaming: