The Women Environment and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Initiative

Rosemary Olive Mbone Enie, ELP 2013, Tanzania

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Climate Change is one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced and Africa now finds itself at the critical juncture. There is an increased concern about the impacts of global climate change that mostly affects the developing countries of Africa. Africa does not bear the responsibility for the causes of climate change and yet agreement must now be reached among the international community to combat its devastating effects.

There is a global concern that since climate change has a wide range of impacts on all sectors and regions, the solutions need to be worked out in a collective manner. The 4th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided regional assessment which showed Africa to be the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change with the least adaptive capacity. Furthermore, it is the poorest people within those African communities who are the most vulnerable and who most urgently need assistance.

The continent faces critical climate change related challenges in areas of:

  • Food security/food self sufficiency
  • Water security
  • Energy security
  • Ecosystems management
  • Human health, affordable fuel, sanitation and hygiene
  • Urban and coastal communities’ security
  • Transport infrastructure

These challenges include aggravated land degradation, water scarcity, augmented disasters such as floods and droughts, and climate change forced migration, low accessibility to energy resources and poor energy use efficiency, and changing disease prevalence. There is also the alarming rise of armed conflicts related to diminishing access to natural and vital resources. These challenges are exacerbated by multiple-stresses and limitations including low adaptive capacity, limited access to knowledge and technology support, extreme poverty, weak policy support, lack of integrated approaches for strategic planning, and lack of regional cooperation. The Most Vulnerable Groups (MVGs), which include women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, etc., suffer the most because of climate change impacts.

These challenges have already jeopardized the prospects of achieving and sustaining the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It may also have an impact on the transition to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and thus requires collective action as envisaged in the Addis Ababa Declaration (2007) on Climate Change in Africa. This declaration embodies the commitments of the African Heads of State and Government to integrate climate change into national, sub-regional, and regional development policies, plans, and programs. In this regard, African women will have a critical role to play in implementing the declaration signed by their Presidents/Head of Governments at Addis Ababa in 2007.

The General Assembly special session devoted to climate change (September 2007) was convened to reflect the high priority that governments and the world community should accord to climate change. The session sent a strong signal regarding bold steps to be taken at the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference that was held in Copenhagen Denmark in December 2009. It was rather unfortunate that the conference only came out with the Copenhagen Accord, which was too soft of an agreement to bind any nation into full commitment to combat climate change. Through the Women Environment and Climate Action Network (WECAN) Initiative, we are undertaking a special role in mobilizing and facilitating African women towards addressing the critical concerns of climate change’s impact on Africa. The declaration on integrating climate change into development cooperation, adopted by the development and environment ministers of the OECD countries (April 2006), provides an additional compelling reason for African women in partnership with their counterparts across the world to mobilize necessary actions.

The COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009 was supposed to provide a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between commitments and actions, particularly as it relates to the needed adaptation and mitigation measures in Africa. Thus there was no agreement reached in Copenhagen, therefore, there is need for a strategy to mobilize special groups like the African women to undertake special actions in the following:

  • Promoting the development of climate related policies and legislation working in partnership with Parliamentarians in their countries and other policy and law makers
  • Promote local and international resource mobilization for the funding of climate change initiatives
  • Awareness-raising of climate change issues in their countries and continent
  • Promoting the Water-Food-Energy Nexus

In addition, an enabling environment will be needed for capacity building, multilateral and other forms of cooperation, as well as additional resources to African women to enable them to perform their duties as caretakers of the community and natural resource managers.