Global Gender and Environment Outlook (GGEO)

19 May 2018

Recognizing the importance of highlighting gender from an environmental perspective, and in response to a call from the Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment (NWMLE), UN Environment made a commitment at Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and the future we want to undertake a ground-breaking global gender and environmental assessment.

The Global Gender and Environment Outlook is a collaborative project between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and strategic partners to bring gender issues to the heart of environmental assessment and decision-making. The Global Gender and Environment Outlook (GGEO) occupies a unique space at the intersection of foundational environmental frameworks such as The Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) and foundational gender-lens frameworks.

The GGEO project is the first large scale global environmental assessment to combine these approaches. Bringing gender perspectives to bear on environmental frameworks is not a matter of ‘add women and stir.’ Rather, gender analysis changes the frameworks themselves. Approaching environmental understanding through a gender lens demands new and different questions, emphasizes different dimensions of human-environment relationships, and requires different methodological tools and approaches.

The assessment’s funding was supported by the Norwegian and Swedish governments, through their ear-mark funds for gender assessment and activities in UNEP. The assessment also benefited from technical and organizational advice from the following Partners: The Network of Ministers and Leaders of the Environment (NWM&LE), Women in Europe for a Common Feature (WECF), UN Women, UN University, University of Iceland and World Centre for Sustainable Development.

The Global Gender and Environment Outlook (GGEO) Critical issues was launched at the second United Nations Environment Assembly in May 2016. The GGEO provides a comprehensive overview of the linkages between gender and environment in the contexts of SDGs and 2030 Development agenda. It is expected to enable better understanding of the environment through a gender lens, support better integration of gender perspectives in development and implementation of environmental policies at international and national levels, and drive impact through partnerships.

Why a GGEO?

Everywhere in the world, men and women occupy different positions in relationship to the environment. They experience the impact of environmental changes differently. Gender roles often create differences in the ways men and women act in relation to the environment, and in the ways men and women are enabled or prevented from acting as agents of environmental change.

Everyone, women and men alike, have an important role to play in moving towards environmental sustainability. Recognizing women as part of the solution is therefore not only a human right in itself, but also provides a unique opportunity to address the often-deep-rooted inequalities in society that impact negatively on the urban and rural environment. An impressive body of work since the 1980s makes clear that environmental analysis is sharpened, enhanced, and transformed by a gender-sensitive lens.While some knowledge on gender-environment linkages is already available, it is rather scattered and represents diverse sectors, geographic scales and periods of time. Therefore, it is a challenge to develop comprehensive regional and global insights.

By exploring future sustainability pathways from a gender perspective, we can envisage the future we can have and make a tangible difference in the lives of people around the world, while taking care of the environment.

The GGEO provides an overview of existing knowledge to generate insights and gives a first set of answers to the following key policy-relevant questions:

  • What social forces are producing the changes seen in the environment and are they gender dependent?
  • What are the large-scale consequences of ongoing ecological changes for social systems and human security and are the impacts gender-differentiated?
  • What do future projections and outlooks look like, are they gender-differentiated and will there be different outcomes for women and men?
  • What actions could be taken for a more sustainable future that will position men and women as equal agents in taking such actions and which socio-economic factors will shape different outcomes and responses for men and women?

The GGEO was developed and written by a global team of 50 experts with inputs from major groups and international organizations. We wish to thank all those who have contributed to the GGEO, and look forward to the uptake of its findings throughout the environmental sector at international and national levels.


Chapter 1. The gender-environment nexus
The Global Gender and Environmental Outlook (GGEO) occupies a unique space in the landscape of global assessments, highlighting a new framework for the world to look at social and economic development. The GGEO is not simply a matter of add women to the environment and stir; instead it takes the foundations of gender-based assessment frameworks into the core of traditional environmental assessment approach of Drivers-Pressure-State-Impacts-Response (DPSIR) methodology, forcing new questions to be asked and new methods to be developed.

The drivers of environmental change are differentiated by gender. Whether environmental change is acute or slow and chronic, it has specific differentiated impacts on women and girls or on men and boys. Using a gender-specific approach to examine these types of complex linkages (which may be referred to as the “gender-and-environment nexus”) is therefore an appropriate way to investigate the dynamic relationships between environmental change and gender equality, as well as between impacts on sustainability and the realization of women’s rights and empowerment.

Recognition of the current environmental impacts is taking place while global policy and advocacy efforts for gender equality are gaining traction as well as for class/income, race/ethnicity and other types of differences. The push for gender equality is shaping environmental understanding, but notions of gender equality are also shaped by environmental imperatives including equal access to, and sharing of, the benefits of the use and protection of ecosystems and natural resources.


Chapter 3. Outlook for a sustainable future

Gender-and-environment approaches are necessary for sustainable, equitable and just management of the planet’s natural resources and ecosystems. Key conclusions include:

  • “Business-as-usual” approaches are not working and are proving disastrous for people and the planet alike. Gender-and-environment approaches are integral to a sustainable and just future;
  • Until recently, gender and the environment were treated in separate silos;
  • While the gender-and-environment nexus is increasingly acknowledged in international agreements and national policy documents, implementation and follow-through are weak or absent;
  • Gender equality cannot be measured by women’s and men’s “presence” alone. “Presence” does not necessarily mean “participation” and neither inherently implies “influence”: the nature of their participation is what makes people’s “presence” meaningful;
  • A transformative agenda recognizes gender equality as a driver of social change, leading to more people-smart environmental policies;
  • The “future we want” can be glimpsed based on the progress already made.

Data Sources
One of the pivotal contributions of GGEO is a review and assessment of available data at the intersection of gender and environment. Overall, there is only limited information available about the differences between women’s and men’s needs, resource uses, and responsibilities across all the subsectors under sustainable development, environment, and conservation. The availability of data is important because of a simple tenet – what’s not counted doesn’t count. Women’s roles are often invisible in sectors such as biodiversity due to lack of comprehensive sex-disaggregated data and information.

There are 17 indicators that provide the most geographically comprehensive gender-disaggregated, environment-relevant data. While these indicators represent a limited portion of the data and information that would ideally be needed to offer a comprehensive picture of gender aspects of environmental issues, compiling these indicators provides an important baseline that will be useful to decision makers, practitioners, and many of UNEP’s institutional partners.

The availability of data at the intersection of gender and environment is important because of a simple tenet – what’s not counted doesn’t count. Limited information is available about the differences between women’s and men’s needs, resource uses, and responsibilities across all the subsectors under sustainable development, environment, and conservation. Women’s roles are often invisible in sectors such as biodiversity due to lack of comprehensive sex-disaggregated data and information.

The primary criterion used to select the 17 indicators was the availability of data that is separated by women and men on environment and sustainable development issues. In addition, the analysis focused on data that provides coverage for the largest number of countries, datasets where country-level information is made available online, data that is relatively recent (post 2010), and data from major multilateral institutions to ensure integrity of the research. Additional data and information, including country-level studies and qualitative information, was collected for use in the Global Gender and Environment Outlook report.

The 17 indicators are grouped into 5 categories:

  • Agricultural work and food security
  • Access to land and non-land assets
  • Water and sanitation
  • Health impacts of indoor and outdoor air pollution
  • Female participation in environmental institutions and education