The climate crisis is a humanitarian crisis for women and girls in particular

By Björn Andersson 

As we mark World Humanitarian Day, we need to take urgent action to engage in climate adaptation, build climate resilience, and prepare all the better for the escalating disasters, displacement, and cycles of vulnerability that the climate crisis is creating – a crisis that is proving particularly devastating for the health and wellbeing of women and girls. 

We know that 80% of disaster-related displacements worldwide have occurred in the Asia-Pacific region over the past decade. We also know that women and girls make up more than half of the displaced population globally. The intensification of extreme weather is also creating a crisis for sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender-based violence. There is no doubt that the climate crisis is gendered, and the evidence is increasingly coming to bear. 

In Asia and the Pacific, a region already reeling under the climate crisis, strategically investing in resilience-building at the national, institutional, community, and individual level is critical to achieve sustainable development, enable equal access to services, and realise the rights for women and young people of all backgrounds.

Governments must commit to including women and young people of diverse backgrounds in discussions on climate change and allocate sufficient budget to carry forward the work. Engaging and empowering women and young people in climate action is a prerequisite for more just, equitable, sustainable, and climate-resilient societies.

Civil society organisations have a key role to play in sharing their skills and knowledge with governments and in shaping gender responsive and inclusive climate policies. They must be empowered with the resources and opportunities they need to engage with governments to build resilience, boost preparedness, and to cope with what is coming at speed. 

The lessons we continue to learn from the Covid-19 crisis demonstrate what is possible when we all work together. The world has developed medical solutions like vaccines in record time that have saved millions of lives. We have seen the power of collaboration for the global good. We have also seen the inequities caused by the significant gaps that persist in resource acquisition and allocation between nations, as well as the damaging impacts of unilateral, non-collaborative action. These lessons – reflecting both challenges and opportunities – can also be applied to tackling the climate crisis. 

This is truly a transformational time for people on the frontlines. Women, men, and young people of all backgrounds involved in shaping climate policies, strengthening preparedness, or responding to disasters save lives and improve the health, protection, and wellbeing of people living the reality of climate change. 

Let us use the momentum for reimagining and innovation to better handle the extreme events that lie ahead together – benefiting generations to come

(The writer is the Asia-Pacific Regional Director for the UNFPA, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency)