I was thrilled to be invited to the 23rd meeting of the Conference of Parties
(COP), or COP23, in Bonn, Germany, in 2017, as part of the Women’s
Environment and Development Organization
, a founding member of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC). COP was established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) so that all signatory countries could convene to discuss climate
change policy.

Laura Cooper Hall looks for opportunities to link reproductive health, gender, and the environment at COP23.
Laura Cooper Hall
looks for opportunities to link reproductive health, gender, and theenvironment at COP23.

Having attended COP22 as a graduate student in 2016, I realized the importance of advocates participating in these spaces to raise awareness about the connections between gender, reproductive health (RH), and climate with policymakers and to push for inclusive decisions.  Advocates for change face great challenges in any setting, but in the UNFCCC context of climate change negotiations—and within the rigid complexity of the COP structure—adding issues of RH and gender equality into the mix can be daunting.

At COP23, I strengthened my knowledge of the UN process, learning especially how advocates can introduce and promote previously unappreciated intersections of issues in the challenging environment of global climate negotiations. Knowing I would soon be a part of the People, Health, Planet practice area with Population Reference Bureau (PRB), I looked for the links between RH, gender, and the environment.


Conference of Parties Increases Inclusion of Gender Issues

Although RH has yet to be included in any COP decisions, COP meetings include increasing
representation of the issue, and RH is a climate theme among many UNFCCC
signatory countries. A look at how advocates represented RH and gender issues at COP23 reveals:

  • COP23 adopted its first-ever Gender Action Plan (GAP). Widely
    considered a huge step forward for gender in international climate policy, the
    GAP “represents a landmark opportunity to improve the quality of life for women
    worldwide, as well as to ensure their equal representation in climate policy
    and planning.”[1] It was adopted to support and enhance all gender-related decisions made by the UNFCCC through specific activities outlined in five priority areas, from
    capacity building to monitoring and reporting. The GAP is a promising start for
    future, more specific, gender-related COP decisions that hopefully will include
    reproductive health.
  • The WGC, a long-standing UNFCCC stakeholder group, included among its key demands: “Promote health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.”[2]
  • Certain nongovernmental organizations within the UNFCCC framework are notable advocates
    for including reproductive rights in the climate change discussions, such as the
    Population and Sustainability Network, of which PRB is a member.
  • The Danish Family Planning AssociationARROW, and other
    partners from the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance organized an awareness-raising event on COP23’s “Gender Day,” highlighting how the WGC demand for reproductive health is vital for gender equality and empowerment.

The Way Forward

Gender has become accepted into international climate policy
discussions, making PRB’s work on the connections between population dynamics and climate change even more important. However, other issues inextricably linked
to gender also need to be considered. Inclusion and participation in the COP
space, done through and alongside evidence-based advocacy work, is imperative
if we are to have an impact on climate policymakers.

I’d like to thank WEDO for supporting my inclusion at COP23 and for encouraging meto pursue my professional and personal interests in gender and the environment.Working with such inspiring individuals at WEDO and the WGC was a defining moment for me, one that I know I will reflect on often in the future.

1.“Adoption of the First Gender Action Plan Under the UNFCCC,” Women and Gender Constituency Press Release, Nov. 15, 2017, accessed at https://cop23.unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Press%20release%20GAP%20adoption.pdf,
on Jan. 16, 2018.

2. Women Gender Constituency, “Key Demands: Women Demand a Gender-Just
Transition,” Nov. 2017, accessed at http://womengenderclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/WGCKeyDemands-1.pdf,
on Jan. 16, 2018.