Power, discrimination and gender equality
By Tuija Sievänen (Finnish Forest Research Institute),
Coordinator of IUFRO Division 6 – Social Aspects of Forests and Forestry
A new publication takes a long, hard look at – and dispels some of the myths about – the issue of gender equality as it relates to development and environmental governance of the forests.
The author, Seema Arora-Jonsson of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Coordinator of the IUFRO Working Party dealing with gender research in forestry, focuses on groups in India, which is widely recognized as a highly gender-biased country and in Sweden, a country seen as highly gender-equal.
Dr. Arora-Jonsson makes the point that simply including women on committees and other governance mechanisms is not enough and can, in fact, work to perpetuate existing inequalities.
She calls for more creative policymaking that recognizes and addresses the wider social context in which the policies are meant to be implemented.
Her findings indicate that some committees involved with forest governance add female members simply to pay lip-service to the concept of gender equality – i.e. having a female member or members automatically makes a neutral “people’s” committee.
Other committees, even those organized by people honestly concerned about gender equality, often see women members as a monolithic presence. A man who is invited or appointed to sit on a committee is usually seen as representing a certain interest – community, development, government, environment, forest management, etc.
When a woman sits on the same committee, she is seen as representing women – all women and all women’s viewpoints.
Dr. Arora-Jonsson noted there is an assumption that women committee members will act as one, and differences of opinion among them are seen as signs of weakness or an inability to co-operate. Lack of agreement among men, on the other hand, is seen simply as a difference in vision.
And, referring to another of her articles on gender issues, Dr. Arora-Jonsson notes that when climate change is thrown into the forest governance mix, conventional wisdom puts women in one of two camps. In developing countries – primarily in the southern hemisphere – women are seen as vulnerable; in the north, as virtuous.
In the south women are seen as victims, more vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change than are men. In the north, women are seen to be more concerned about climate change and environmental stewardship because men in the north pollute more – as an example, some research indicates that men tend, among other things, to drive more.
Focusing on the vulnerability/virtue issue, the author points out, can simply reinforce existing biases, deflect attention from actual inequalities in decision-making and can lead to an increase in women’s responsibility to care for their environments with no corresponding increase in resources or rewards.
Gender, Arora-Jonsson says, is often correlated with a rather nebulous “larger good”. But seldom are there questions of how the larger good is determined and by whom. To really understand and govern forests, the author maintains, one has to go beyond the trees and look at the social contexts and interrelated issues of development and democracy.
Success in terms of gender equality is unlikely, she says, unless questions of power and discrimination are dealt with.
The publication: Gender, Development and Environmental Governance can be found at:
Gender, Development and Environmental Governance: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415890373/
IUFRO Division 6 Social Aspects of Forests and Forestry: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-6/60000/
IUFRO Spotlights main page, http://www.iufro.org/media/iufro-spotlights/
Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to Achieving REDD+ Objectives
Forests harbour a major proportion of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and provide a wide range of vitally important ecosystem services – including carbon sequestration and storage. Deforestation and forest degradation continue to erode biodiversity and the capacity of forest ecosystems to help mitigate climate change and provide the goods and services that sustain livelihoods and human well-being locally, and globally. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) is a proposed mechanism which has the potential to realise its primary objective – climate change mitigation – with variable impacts, positive and negative, on biodiversity, forests and people. REDD+ is complex, its proposed activities and implementation mechanisms not yet clearly defined, and therefore surrounded by uncertainty. Because of its high relevance to climate change mitigation, the conservation and sustainable use of forests and their biological diversity, the Expert Panel on Biodiversity, Forest Management and REDD+ was established by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests in December 2011 to carry out this assessment.
The Expert Panel included 24 scientists and other experts from a variety of biophysical and social science disciplines relevant to the topics covered in this assessment report. An additional 18 contributing authors added their expertise to the assessment. Each chapter was prepared by a team of Lead Authors and Contributing Authors led by one or more Coordinating Lead Authors. A full draft of the report and its individual chapters was peer-reviewed prior to its completion. The results of this voluntary collaboration between January and October 2012 are presented in the six inter-related chapters comprising this book.
This assessment report evaluates the implications of forest and land management interventions envisaged under REDD+ in a multidimensional and integrated fashion. It summarises the most current scientific literature that sheds light on the relationships between forest biodiversity and carbon (and other ecosystem services), how these complex relationships may be affected by management activities implemented to achieve REDD+ objectives, the potential synergies and tradeoffs between and among environmental and socio-economic objectives, and their relationship to governance issues. Based on the main findings of the assessment (summarised in Chapter 6), a policy brief entitled ‘REDD+, Biodiversity and People: Opportunities and Risks’ has been prepared especially for policy- and decision-makers.
The full report is formally presented at Forest Day 6 on 2 December during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Doha, Qatar (26 November-7 December, 2012).
The report, the policy brief and a press release – New Study Suggests Global Pacts Like REDD Ignore Primary Causes of Destruction of Forests – are available for download.
Report and Policy Brief: http://www.iufro.org/science/gfep/biodiv-forman-redd-panel/report/
For more information about the Expert Panel on Biodiversity, Forest Management and REDD+, please visit: