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UNECE reinforces the drive to strengthen human rights, gender equality, and youth engagement in sustainable resource management

Female engineer

To establish sustainable and ethical practices for sourcing critical minerals, it is crucial to prioritize human rights, gender equality, and youth engagement. It is also imperative to integrate protection of human rights into resource management. The central focus should be women’s empowerment within the sector, highlighting the crucial role of women in fostering sustainable practices and advocating for human rights.  

Gender equality and human rights 

The UNECE Resource Management Week 2024, including the 15th annual session of the UNECE Expert Group on Resource Management (Geneva, 22-26 April), attracted diverse stakeholders on resource management who discussed the merits of integrating the protection of human rights into resource management. Speakers explored themes of gender equity in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and financing mechanisms for a just transition in the extractives sector. These discussions emphasized the need for a transformative approach supporting social justice and economic growth.  

Globally, the ASM sector employs approximately 45 million people (in 80 countries), and indirectly supports 150 million people. Women make up about 30 to 50% of the ASM workforce​. 

“Emphasizing the fundamental role of social justice as an integral part of sustainable practices and protecting these rights is essential for the ethical and equitable use of resources,” emphasized Anna Nguno, Deputy Director of the Geological Survey of Namibia. “Special attention needs to be given to the rights of local populations and local communities, with a need for continued recommendations in developing policy guidelines that support equality and protect human rights across all aspects of resource management”.  

The journey towards safeguarding human rights and ensuring a just transition within resource management is challenging. Issues persist in areas such as education and clarity of standards, which underscores the need for continued efforts and attention in these crucial areas.  

Empowering youth and fostering intergenerational equity 

Engaging young people in sustainable resource management will help to ensure a fair transition to clean energy. This highlights the significance of youth in shaping future policies and practices related to resource management.  

“Promoting intergenerational justice through value-chain thinking and targeted demand-side solutions in managing critical raw materials is essential,” said Jodi-Ann Wang, Policy Analyst, LSE Grantham Research Institute and Just Transition Finance Lab. “This requires forward-thinking strategies to meet the resource management needs of both current and future generations while promoting a just and equitable approach to the energy transition.” 

Utilizing UNFC and UNRMS to enhance transparency and accountability 

The discussions highlighted the importance of structured frameworks for managing resources effectively. The role of the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) and the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS) was emphasized as crucial in addressing the challenges of social justice, gender equality, and youth engagement. These frameworks help investors by providing clarity and improving educational outreach through the establishment of clear standards and practices for sustainable and responsible resource management. By adopting and adhering to the guidelines of UNFC and UNRMS, all sectors can ensure that resource development is done ethically, respecting human rights and promoting equality. 

Looking ahead 

The Expert Group recommended that efforts should continue to address these challenges and develop a guideline document on policies that support equality and human rights protection in all aspects of resource management. This represents the first focus on human rights by the Expert Group.  

The ideas discussed during the meeting have significant potential to impact policies and practices. There is a strong commitment to promote gender equality, uphold human rights, and involve youth in decision-making. These efforts will drive the agenda towards creating a more just and sustainable system for managing resources. 

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