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Looking Beyond Conflict to Address Climate Change Impacts in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

Looking Beyond Conflict to Address Climate Change Impacts in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

Since the creation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda with the adoption of resolution 1325 in 2000, climate change has become arguably the most pressing security issue of our time. While the links between climate change and gender are well known, until recently there has been minimal overlap between responses to the climate crisis and the WPS agenda. Critiques of the implementation of the WPS agenda have pointed to a narrowly focused discourse that constructs women as helpless victims in need of protection from war-time sexual violence. Yet, the fact is that preexisting gender dynamics dictate the impact of both conflicts and crises, and gender inequalities are simultaneously exacerbated by climate change. As feminist scholars have continually reminded us, peace is not merely the absence of violence, and the most foundational aim of the WPS agenda revolves around securing a “gender-just and sustainable peace.” Thus, an understanding of the gendered insecurities entrenched by natural disasters points to the need to expand the scope of the WPS agenda in order to address the structural violence of the climate crisis.

The Gendered Impacts and Insecurities of the Climate Crisis

There are many illustrative examples of the gendered effects of natural disasters. Following the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred in December 2004, Oxfam published a report on the disaster’s impact on women in Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka. They found that in some areas, women made up over 75 percent of deaths—in the most extreme cases, there were four female deaths for every male one. The report explained that the effects of the tsunami depended on gendered social roles, and varied by specific contexts. For instance, in Indonesia and India, men fishing offshore were more likely to survive as the waves passed under their boats.
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