blog 29.05.2024

General

Applying a gender lens to environmental anti-corruption measures

Taking gender into account when designing and assessing environmental anti-corruption measures makes them more inclusive and effective. For this purpose, the Countering Environmental Corruption Practitioners Forum chose to discuss gender-sensitive approaches to addressing environmental corruption for its fifth plenary session on 18 April 2024.

A diverse panel looked at the influence of gender on various fields involved in the fight against environmental corruption and crime, such as law enforcement or specific community projects. Five speakers presented challenges and good practices on the topic, contributing first-hand experience from a practitioner’s point of view.

Links between gender, corruption and the environment

There is still limited research on the connection between these three elements, and gender-conscious anti-corruption strategies are still relatively new. It is important that we continue to collect and discuss data in order to further inform this work.

Applying a gender lens allows us to identify and actively institute measures to address discriminatory social institutions, laws, cultural norms and community practices that make certain groups of people more vulnerable to corrupt practices in environmental governance, both as victims and as perpetrators. Evidence suggests that “women and men experience, participate in, profit and lose from corruption differently.” Women and girls tend to be most affected by environmental corruption, as in many parts of the world they are the main users of natural resources, while at the same time facing limited access to decision-making processes.

It is important to apply gender considerations consistently and along all policy processes, including design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Only through gender mainstreaming can we properly assess how conservation policies and programmes affect the lives and positions of people of different genders, identify inequalities and address imbalances.

Key insights from the panel

The session highlighted the importance of applying a gender lens to anti-corruption work, provided insights from case studies from a recent report on the impact of biodiversity loss and environmental crime on rural and Indigenous women, and discussed gender-associated challenges in public prosecution. Also, one panellist shared the experience of their civil society organisation in prioritising gender perspectives in climate change initiatives. Some of the key findings are presented below:

  • Equal access and participation: Achieving a gender balance in participation ensures that everyone is included in the decision-making and policy design process. Ensuring equal access to information empowers all community members and promotes transparency and accountability in the fight against environmental corruption.

  • Understanding the nuance of cultural practices and gender roles: Anti-corruption work will be more effective if cultural norms, community practices and gender roles are better understood and if interventions take these into account, as these factors can limit the power of a specific group. This goes beyond gender to include disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and social and economic backgrounds.

  • Supporting women’s agency: It is important to support women who are struggling with, as well as adapting and responding to the impact of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, especially in rural and Indigenous habitats. Expanding women’s economic agency, increasing their effective participation, and ensuring safety and protection of whistleblowers are key.

  • Women’s resilience practices: While in Indonesia women lead protests, barricading logging and mining machinery, in Mexico they use festivals to foster unity. In Ecuador women lead advocacy campaigns, and in Cameroon they adapt the agricultural cycle to the rhythm of logging operations. These are just some examples of resilience in the face of multiple challenges, drawn from case studies.

  • Persistence of conflicting norms and structures: In one example shared, the implementation of a national gender policy has had positive impacts on the country’s public ministry, yet gender discrimination persisted within unsupportive cultural norms and patriarchal structures. Stronger changes were needed to impact society. Some organisations were still not used to working with female prosecutors and had explicitly stated their preference to work with men in sensitive cases or police operations.

  • A needs-based approach to community projects: Government investment in climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives may develop robust accountability mechanisms to ensure effectiveness. However, these efforts may lack a gender perspective, leading to insufficient engagement with diverse community needs. To prevent exacerbating existing inequalities, a more inclusive approach is necessary.

Challenges faced by members in applying a gender lens

It is interesting to note that the majority of the participants at the fifth plenary session were from non-governmental organisations, followed by representatives of private organisations or consultants, potentially suggesting a higher awareness on the topic among these groups.

Attending members shared challenges they are facing in advancing the gender perspective in their work. These included, among others shown in the word cloud below:

  • institutional barriers such as male-dominated decision-making structures or bureaucratic inertia;
  • lack of resources and vision;
  • commitments made by stakeholders but no accountability measures;
  • difficulty of finding relevant entry points for a gender perspective while working on corruption prevention with authorities.

When asked about what support is needed to better advance a gender perspective in environmental anti-corruption efforts, participants highlighted three key needs:

  • increased awareness
  • best practices
  • partnerships

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