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From the field to the United Nations

By Emilie Etienne On 15.08.2019 GenderResilience

We shared our experience with the UN to help countries mainstream gender in National Adaptation Plans more effectively.

Climate change is a reality. Countries, companies and individuals need to adapt to new patterns when it comes to disasters such as droughts and floods. That’s why the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) encourages countries to develop National Adaptation Plans. Their aim is to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and facilitate activities that work with existing policies and programmes.

It’s widely recognised that gender should be taken into account when we talk about adaptation to climate change. Marginalised gender groups include LGBTI, widows, single mothers, single women, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. These groups are each affected by climate change in different ways. They also have specific needs. These differences need to be considered in climate change adaptation planning and implementation.

The UN asked for our advice on mainstreaming gender into National Adaptation Plans. We shared our experiences in the field, and identified four main challenges and solutions:

  • Marginalised gender groups are under-represented during the planning and decision-making process. This means that their needs are not taken into account. Common errors include the conflation of gendered needs with gendered roles and thinking of gendered groups as vulnerable people without the ability to positively contribute to the process.
    Our solution
    Decision-making bodies should include marginalised groups. Their voices should be represented, heard and acted on.


  • Complexity-blindness means that people don’t consider overlap between different groups. There is also a strong tendency to think of “women” and “communities” as homogeneous entities rather than acknowledging the diversity of identities, experiences, needs and capacities within these groups.
    Our solution
    Use gender-disaggregated data and studies, including “grey literature” from civil society.
    Consult with members of marginalised groups as much as possible, without creating risk for individuals.
    Consult with specialist organisations who have expert knowledge of the specific contexts, needs, capacities and priorities of marginalised groups.


  • Lack of dedicated budget for gender issues.
    Our solution
    Prioritise gender responsive budgeting (GRB). This results in inclusive plans that meet the needs of gendered groups and ensure resources are allocated where they are needed most.
    Introduce accountability mechanisms for achieving gender mainstreaming in adaptation.


  • Lack of interaction between institutions that are focused on gender issues and those that are focused on climate issues.
    Our solution
    Create working groups and guidelines that encourage joint work between gender and climate change focused institutions. This would be especially beneficial in processes  related to stock-taking, planning, implementation and updating plans.


We recommend that national governments adopt gender approaches that are evidence-based, participatory and context-sensitive in their National Adaptation Plans.

  • Evidence is needed to identify which groups, communities and populations are marginalised in different contexts. And to identify how best to integrate these groups – their needs, capacities, priorities and perspectives – in the planning and implementation of National Adaptation Plans.
  • Participatory approaches allow co-construction of plans, which makes them more likely to succeed.
  • A context-specific approach is needed because the drivers of exclusion and integration of marginalised gender groups are different in different places.

Download the full statement for more information:—Practical%20Action%20gender%20submission.pdf