Feminism, Peace and Environment

WILPF believes that
peace
,
gender
and the
environment
are interconnected.

It is very simple: there can be no peace if there is no gender justice or environmental justice.

As a result of human activity driven by capitalism, militarism, patriarchy, and colonialism, climate change and environmental destruction now threaten the very existence of people, animals, and the life-giving ecosystems on which we all depend.

The ecological crisis uniquely impacts women and girls, Indigenous Peoples, and individuals in marginalised situations – driving deeper inequalities and preventing the attainment of human rights, justice, and peace. 

Now more than ever, it is essential to protect the planet. On this page, we invite you to learn more about how WILPF is working for environmental justice and feminist peace. We hope you will join us.​

“Peace means peace with the Earth. Peace work includes knowledge of and respect for the Earth. If we destroy air, water, and soil because of ignorance or ruthless exploitation, we have nothing to live off or on in peace. Therefore the ecology movement is part of the peace movement.”
Harriet Otterloo, WILPF Sweden, 1983

WILPF’s Approach to Environmental Justice

WILPF is committed to addressing the root causes of violence by advancing the principles of environmental justice and peace. This section offers an overview of WILPF’s feminist solutions to mitigate and prevent further destruction, and what our organisation and members around the world have been doing to ensure protection of people and the planet. You can also learn more about WILPF’s perspectives on the root causes of the ecological crisis and its devastating impacts.

Jump to the section that interests you most.

Drawing on our history of environmental advocacy and activism, WILPF’s work on peace, feminism, and environment is guided by ecofeminist perspectives.

Ecofeminism, a movement spanning a broad range of fields, analyses linkages and relationships between the environment and humans, with a focus on how destruction of nature disproportionately impacts women’s rights, lives, and livelihoods. The movement views the reduction of the environment into “resources” to be acquired, extracted, developed, sold, and consumed as driving a fundamental disconnect between humanity and Earth’s ecosystems.

WILPF recognises that a just, fair, and sustainable way of living will not be possible without a radical transformation of society. Transformation needs to be rooted in decolonisation, demilitarisation, degrowth, and fulfilment of human rights, justice, peace, and deep respect for and understanding that humans are a part of nature, not apart from it.

WILPF continues to raise awareness, offering feminist solutions for sustainable peace and environmental justice at the international level as well as at national and local levels, collaborating with WILPF Sections and partners across the globe.

Advancing divestment, disarmament, and demilitarisation
Leveraging feminist perspectives on conflict prevention
Promoting an economy of sustainability, care, and solidarity
Ensuring marginalised people's participation– from the grassroots to the international level

As a result of human activity driven by capitalism, militarism, patriarchy, and colonialism, climate change and environmental destruction now threaten the very existence of people, animals, and the lifegiving ecosystems on which we all depend.

Along with nationalism and racism, these systems of oppression uphold the status quo and fuel inequalities between people and nations, as they create the conditions that allow governments and corporations to exploit the earth, and extract and consume at the expense of people and the planet. Those in power have undermined our collective struggles to achieve peace, universal human rights, and the sustainable protection of the planet – putting the future of the Earth, and all living things on it, at risk.

For people – particularly those living in the Global South, in countries affected by conflict, and those in communities in marginalised situations – the ecological impacts have meant growing rates of poverty, lack of access to safe and nutritious food and clean water, forced displacement, greater vulnerability to violence, including gender-based violence, and other types of human rights violations. Ecological destruction also exacerbates direct and indirect drivers of conflict, especially in fragile contexts.

Militarism, colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy, amongst other systems of oppression, have created a vicious cycle that affects the planet’s health and resilience. These human-made systems have led to excessive extractivism, pollution, and the climate crisis. As a result, there are sudden onset stressors which are more visible and more immediate, such as extreme weather events like droughts, heatwaves, and floods, among others. Some other impacts are longer-term, which are referred to as slow-onset events such as land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity, sea-level rise, desertification, ocean acidification, and increasing temperatures, among others.

Environment Working Group

WILPF’s Environment Working Group (EWG) seeks to promote a strong focus on the environment in our work towards feminist peace. The EWG consists of diverse members and is a space for exchange, collaboration, and implementation of joint projects. One of the goals of the EWG is to raise awareness about the connections between environment, gender, and militarism while taking into account the wide interests of WILPF Sections and Groups on matters such as the climate crisis, and impacts of militarism and armed conflict on the environment.

What members have to say...

The EWG meets every two to four weeks, and is open to all WILPF members. Please reach out to katrin.geyer(a)wilpf.org if you would like to join!

Latest from WILPF

May 2022

Awareness raising workshop about the environmental impacts of armed conflicts

WILPF CAR recently organised a workshop on the impacts of armed conflicts on the environment, as well as the role of women in environmental protection. The workshops were covered in the media, and allowed for members of WILPF CAR to build partnerships with high-level experts working on environmental protection.
February 2022

Armas nucleares: Avances y retos hacia una paz feminista y medioambiental

WILPF Spain has recently published a new report (currently only available in Spanish) that addresses the links between nuclear weapons, patriarchy, and the climate crisis. It sets out how environmentalism and feminism challenge and transform dominant narratives that rely and justify the continued existence of nuclear weapons.
January 2022

Environmental Peacebuilding through Degrowth, Demilitarisation, and Feminism: Rethinking Environmental Peacebuilding to Stay within Planetary Boundaries and Champion Social Justice

In collaboration with the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS), WILPF contributed a white paper to a compendium of lessons learned, visions for, and recommendations towards the future of environmental peacebuilding.
June 2020

Down the Green Feminist Road: Our Path to Environmental Peace

WILPF recognises the close relationship between the environment, women’s rights and peace. For this reason WILPF launched the Environmental Peace Education Initiative in 2018 which supported WILPF Sections and Groups with small grants for projects on environmental sustainability. This zine gathers these stories about eco-feminist peace.
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Latest News

1 December 2022
7min
News
#COP27

COP27 Is Over – Here’s Our Delegates’ Recap 

13 October 2022
2min
News
#Environment

WILPF Endorses the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

23 March 2022
6min
Analysis
#JusticiaClimática

Poner fin a la impunidad de las empresas: necesitamos un tratado internacional audaz y con perspectiva de género

WILPF at COP

The Conference of Parties (COP) is the largest global climate summit where world leaders, government representatives, civil society, activists and businesses meet each year for twelve days of talks.

In 2015, COP21 adopted the Paris Agreement that commits all countries to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims.

The decade out to 2030 is the last chance to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

WILPF has participated in many COPs over the years and has brought messages of peace to the climate movement.

COP27

For the first time ever, the WILPF delegation to COP27 was selected based on an open and transparent application process. A strong, dynamic delegation of ten WILPF members from Cameroon, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, the United States and Canada as well as our International President, Sylvie Jaqueline Ndongmo and the International Secretariat’s Environment Focal Point, represented WILPF.

WILPF brought perspectives on militarism, gender, and the climate crisis to COP27 and amplified demands of our African members and partners with this COP dubbed the “African COP”.

Browse the gallery for insights into our delegation’s activities!

Meet the delegation!

For the first time ever, the WILPF delegation was selected based on an open and transparent application process. We have a strong, dynamic delegation of ten WILPF members from Cameroon, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, the United States and Canada as well as our International President, Sylvie Jaqueline Ndongmo, to represent our organisation. Head over to our social media channels to get to know them!

Ayo Ayoola-Amale

WILPF Ghana

Michelle Benzing

WILPF Germany

Katrin Geyer

International Secretariat

Nouha Ghosseini

WILPF Lebanon

Tamara Lorincz

Environment Working Group Convener, WILPF Canada

Cindy Piester

WILPF US

Edwick Madzimure

WILPF Zimbabwe

Annie Matundu Mbambi

WILPF DRC

Aubine Sandrine Mahda Kepseu

WILPF Cameroon

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

WILPF International President

Related Materials

January 2022

Environmental Peacebuilding through Degrowth, Demilitarization, and Feminism: Rethinking environmental peacebuilding to stay within planetary boundaries and champion social justice

November 2021

The military needs to be included in climate agreements but the military cannot be greenwashed

July 2020

A WILPF Guide to Leveraging the SDGs for Feminist Peace

October 2020

Joint Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Pre-sessional Working Group, 67th session – WILPF and Peace Tracker Initiative Include sections on water scarcity and on environmental degradation

November 2021

REPORT BACK FROM COP 26: Women Mobilizing for Climate Justice, Gender Equality and Feminist Peace

July 2020

Down the Green Feminist Road – Local stories of sustainability in action

April 2020

Feminist Alternatives: Challenge Militarism to Save Our Planet

June 2020

Down the Green Feminist Road: Our Path to Environmental Peace

November 2022

A Climate of Insecurity for COP27–How the West has Militarised & Impoverished the African Continent

September 2022

A Climate of Insecurity for COP27– African Women Raising Their Voices for Feminist Climate Justice

December 2022

Feminists Speak Out at COP27

December 2022

The COP where we began talking about conflict emissions

December 2022

Veterans for Peace Welcome Cindy Piester to To Give us the Real Story About COP27

December 2022

COP27 Is Over – Here’s Our Delegates’ Recap 

November 2022

COP27 failure shows that a fossil fuel treaty is needed

November 2022

What if countries spent less on conflict and more on climate?

November 2022

We Need a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to Stop Violence Against African Women and Our Continent

Environment Events

Stay in touch with WILPF

Do you want to keep up with our actions and insights for climate justice? Follow us on our social media!

Advancing divestment, disarmament, and demilitarisation

WILPF strives to build a future of peace and human security through divestment, disarmament, and demilitarisation efforts. This means that WILPF challenges militarised thinking, systems, and technologies at the global and local levels. WILPF is also working to highlight and raise awareness of the links between militarism, military activity, and environmental degradation and their gendered impacts. We seek to mobilise feminist, peace, and environment movements in this work.

What are WILPFers doing?

WILPF US launched the website Military Poisons, with the aim to expose the military’s role in PFAS contamination and its connections regarding water, food, and health.

WILPF Canada is actively involved in a campaign to urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to say no to new fighter jets with harmful environmental, climate, nuclear, financial, socio-cultural, and gender-based impacts. To that end, WILPF Canada published a Parliamentary Petition and a 48-page report Soaring: The Harms and Risks of Fighter Jets and Why Canada Must Not Buy a New Fleet.

WILPF Italy carried out a series of workshops focused on helping teachers and students from schools across Italy in particularly militarised areas to understand the links between climate change and militarism.

WILPF Germany held the conference Peace, Disarmament & Climate Justice: Connecting the Dots, which offered a learning space to explore topics such as demilitarisation and climate justice.

WILPF Ghana participated in a multi-stakeholder workshop to develop a roadmap to facilitate Ghana’s ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) to get closer to a world without nuclear weapons, which are posing devastating risks to the planet.

WILPF Spain organised the joint campaign 10 Razones: Firma TPAN (10 reasons to ratify the TPNW)  to demand its government to sign and ratify the TPNW, which entered into force in January 2021, to ensure the protection of all life on Earth.

WILPF Zimbabwe organised awareness-raising workshops for women in local communities about the links between militarism, military spending, and the climate crisis, and why it is important for Zimbabwe to join all relevant disarmament treaties.

Leveraging feminist perspectives on conflict prevention

WILPF centres prevention in our feminist advocacy to reflect the importance of sustainable, intersectional, and gender-responsive solutions to crises, including the climate crisis. Too often, diplomatic actions designed to promote peace, including peace agreements, elevate a liberal concept of development that prioritises economic growth within the existing capitalist system, despite the fact that this system is often a significant driver of environmental destruction and inequality.

WILPF addresses the environmental impacts of conflict as well as the issue of conflict over natural resources. The latter is likely to increase in the coming years, in part due to the increased demand for minerals and rare earth materials required for technologies needed to transition towards renewable energy. Conflict over these resources is likely to continue to predominantly impact regions of the Global South.

In our approach towards conflict prevention, WILPF adopts ecofeminist perspectives in our advocacy and work on the implementation of multilateral agreements, resolutions, and plans for action on gender, disarmament, human rights, and environment.

What are WILPFers doing?

WILPF Burkina Faso and Groupement Mixte des Apprenants – a local grassroots association – teamed up to open discussion spaces to address the consequences of preventing women from exercising their land rights, which has direct impacts on women’s ability to address climate change, particularly in the context of food security.

WILPF Sweden established an environment climate crisis working group, which brought recommendations to the Feminist Policies for Climate Justice Report on the intersections between the challenges facing women climate activists, climate change, and conflict.

WILPF Sudan and WILPF Central African Republic (CAR) organised awareness-raising workshops with women from their local communities about the impacts of armed conflict on the environment.

WILPF UK’s climate justice exhibition, in advance of the United Nations’ COP26, focused on different topics related to the climate crisis such as environmental displacement, financing for climate justice, legislation to protect the Earth, as well as how the military contributes to the climate crisis.

Promoting an economy of sustainability, care, and solidarity

Every economic policy must contribute to the protection and regeneration of ecosystems, which current principles of competition and consumer-driven capitalism do not serve.

WILPF raises awareness about how unsustainable economic practices and policies, at the global, regional, national, and local levels, are contributing to and exacerbating the climate crisis and environmental destruction – and how these gendered practices drive conflicts. This work is anchored in local perspectives and realities and also linked to the analysis of the environmental impacts of global systems such as financial institutions, trade agreements, and corporations.

As a solution, WILPF members seek feminist alternatives to these damaging economic policies, promoting an economy of sustainability, care and solidarity.

What are WILPFers doing?

WILPF New Zealand addressed a letter to its government expressing dismay at their granting offshore drilling rights to international companies.

WILPF Canada advocates to prevent construction of pipelines and protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

WILPF DRC made a submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo on the gendered impacts of artisanal mining. It also refers to mining’s devastating environmental impacts.

WILPF Kenya conducted Mama Boma Project, a series of training sessions on financial literacy and environmental sustainability. Some women who took part in the project started their own small green businesses by converting fallen tree branches, which are usually wasted, into mats that can be sold in local markets.

WILPF Pakistan brought 5,000 Moringa tree samplings to the 12th Annual Rural Women Conference held in Pakistan, sharing with the attendees the properties of this tree as a natural pump to hold the water content close to the ground surface, helping Pakistani women access water in arid areas.

WILPF Afghanistan carried out a nationwide tree-planting campaign A Tree for Green Afghanistan along with the government and schools, planting over one million trees across the city of Kabul.

WILPF Senegal works with rural women to build resilience and adaptation capacities to climate change, promoting access and security of land for women, reforestation, adoption of sustainable land management, and water retention techniques to strengthen agricultural activities and the use of renewable energy.

Ensuring marginalised people's participation– from the grassroots to the international level

Although conflict, environmental destruction, and the pollution and destruction of land, air, and soil have a particularly devastating impact on women, people of colour, Indigenous Peoples, and other people in marginalised situations, these populations are underrepresented in decision-making spaces, particularly in countries affected by conflict. This leads to a lack of gendered or culturally sensitive perspectives and solutions to conflict prevention and ecological regeneration. 

With the focus mainly placed on environment-focused movements and initiatives that are dominated by white men, it is critical to support and follow the lead of women and Indigenous Peoples and to centre their rights for a future of environmental justice and sustainable solutions. It is crucial that conflict prevention efforts reflect the importance of intersectional, gender-responsive solutions to the ecological crisis.

WILPF therefore promotes the meaningful participation of women and other marginalised groups in political and social transformation processes related to peace and environmental justice at all levels, from the local to the global. Importantly, for WILPF, “meaningful” participation is not just about counting women – rather, it is about making women count.

WILPF seeks to hold governments, corporations, militaries, and other actors accountable for their ecological impacts and for the human rights violations and abuses that arise from those impacts. This includes, for instance, WILPF’s advocacy for legally binding measures to regulate transnational corporations and other businesses and for the recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment under international law. We strive to prevent oppression in all its forms, including conflict and environmental destruction, and to secure gender-responsive justice, including through accountability mechanisms.

Peacebuilding dialogues must also support the meaningful participation of diverse women and girls as leaders, defenders, and frontline responders to the ecological crisis, including through participation in the development of early warning systems that identify the potential emergence of conflict.

What are WILPFers doing?

WILPF Pakistan set up a Climate Change Conversation Corner (CCCC) at the Annual Rural Women Conference in Islamabad that was attended by 3,000 women from across the country. WILPF members shared information about citizens’ responsibility to protect the planet and also shared information about Fridays for Future. WILPF Pakistan member Sameena Nazir met with youth climate activist Greta Thunberg in September 2020 during her visit to Washington, DC.

WILPF DCR, in synergy with the Association Action du Bas Fleuve (AFEBAF), has accompanied women of the Bas Congo region in their committed approach to the preservation of forests and nature. Each year on International Rural Women’s Day, WILPF DCR conducts awareness campaigns among women farmers, explaining the problem of climate change and the role that women must play in this area.

WILPF Germany organised a parallel event at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) entitled “Connecting the dots between (de)militarisation, gender and climate justice,” with the aim to raise awareness about the inextricable link between climate justice and militarism to achieve sustainable peace and gender justice.

WILPF Lebanon made a joint submission with two other civil society organisations to the UN Universal Periodic Review. In the report, they outline adverse environmental impacts of the World Bank-funded dam project as well as impacts of forest degradation, and call for concrete policies and measures to address these situations.

WILPF Zimbabwe submitted a report to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Zimbabwe, including feminist political analysis and recommendations to address environmental destruction and the climate crisis.




Capitalism

Capitalism relies on growth and consumerism. It is a system that creates a vastly unequal world and it is deeply interconnected with colonialism, militarism, and racism. 

For example:

  • Corporations, particularly those in the extractive and agribusiness sectors, are directly responsible for environmental degradation and a huge percentage of emissions and environmental destruction, exacerbating the ecological crisis. 
  • International financial institutions (IFIs) are contributing directly to environmental degradation and the climate crisis by designing, upholding, and perpetuating neoliberal economic policies and financing businesses and projects that are devastating for the environment.
  • Resource consumption under capitalism perpetuates a political economy of violence, which is used to “justify” the production and use of weapons.
  • As the capitalist political economy is a driver of conflict, inevitably, natural resources are viewed as a “prize” to be obtained from that conflict and the subsequent peace, both by those engaged in the actual fighting and those who enable the agreements. This approach is validated and embedded in diplomatic discourse on how peace is brokered, and conflict resolved.

Colonialism

Colonialism has always been charged with violence, extraction, and environmental destruction as oppressors seek access to new territory, resources, and labourers, exploiting the land and people. Today, as many people in the Global North live and consume at the ecological expense of communities in the Global South, we also see the rise of climate colonialism and environmental racism.

Rich industrialised countries outsource waste, as well as pollution from industrial activity, to countries in the Global South, all in the name of profit, power, and convenience.

It is increasingly clear that systemic oppression, racism, and environmental collapse are inextricably linked.

Patriarchy

Ecological destruction and patriarchy are closely tied together. Both are the product of the notion that other living things and the planet can be dominated with violence and exploited. Patriarchy prioritises and privileges men’s experiences, power, and access to resources over other beings, including women. This closely links to entrenched assumptions of humans’ dominance over nature and their sense of entitlement to extract and use no matter the costs – detrimental beliefs that sit at the root of the climate and environmental crisis.

The power granted to men by patriarchy decreases men’s vulnerabilities to climate change, whilst traditional gender roles in many societies mean that women and girls are more likely to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental destruction.

Militarism

Militarism is underpinned by the assumption that the use of force or the threat thereof is the most appropriate response to conflicts. This idea is fuelled in large part by profitability for governments, corporations, and individuals. 

Military activity directly contributes to environmental destruction through pollution of land, air, and water, greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, land grabbing, land clearing and use, the development and production of nuclear weapons, the production and dumping of massive volumes of hazardous waste, agricultural degradation due to landmines and cluster bombs, contamination from heavy metals and other toxic materials in weapons production and use, justification of military action on the basis of securing fossil fuel resources, and much more. 

Despite the devastating consequences of militarism on human security and the environment, each year governments around the world waste nearly two trillion dollars on military expenditure rather than investing these funds into public infrastructure and environmental protection and regeneration efforts.

Intensifying the problem, many nations and organisations are also promoting militarised responses to the climate crisis and environmental destruction, perpetuating and deepening the role of militarism and reinforcing its underpinning patriarchal ideologies. In this regard, it is therefore not enough to simply “green” the military-industrial complex.

Food insecurity

Climate change and global warming have intensified risks to food security and threaten to reverse the progress made so far in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. Climate change exacerbates food security in all its dimensions by modifying the conditions under which agricultural activities are conducted (for example, in light of impacts from droughts or floods). 

Women involved in agriculture activities, who often bear the primary responsibility of gathering and managing resources such as food and water, are the most disproportionately affected by changing weather patterns. Women farmers are particularly disadvantaged due to the lack of land rights, unpaid work, insecure employment and exclusion from decision-making and political representation.

The agricultural sector provides the primary source of livelihood for more than 44 per cent of the world’s total workforce. Local and regenerative food production systems are threatened by large agro-industrial enterprises. They displace local communities and overuse chemical fertilisers that destroy the resilience of soil and entire ecosystems. The environmental price of industrial agriculture creates greater exposure to climate risks that trigger shocks and volatility of agricultural production, food prices, and food availability. 

The adverse effects by the climate crisis and industrial agriculture have negative impacts on agricultural production in low-income countries and put livelihoods of large numbers of rural populations at risk. 

Gender and Social Justice

It is important to recognise that women and girls, Indigenous Peoples, and individuals in marginalised situations, poor people, as well as people living in the Global South are disproportionately impacted by the ecological crisis.

People who are marginalised due to gender, age, caste, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, legal status, socio-economic status, and ability, amongst others, are more likely to suffer from the most severe impacts of environmental disasters. Among other impacts, climate change exacerbates vulnerable contexts and negatively affects people’s rights to health, housing, water, and food. 

Patriarchal privilege, traditional gender roles and pre-existing structural discrimination based on gender in many societies decrease men’s vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change and mean that women and girls are more likely to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental destruction. 

For instance, socio-cultural barriers that deprive women of access to resources, decision-making, information, and agency, among others, are exacerbated by the ecological crisis. For instance, gender-based violence (GBV) in all its forms is reported to increase in the context of natural disasters. Other examples include increased rates of child marriage during prolonged times of drought, as it is used by families as a strategy to cope with scarcity of food and income. Domestic violence also increases with increasing economic pressure on households. This also includes acts of GBV against environmental and human rights defenders, as a tactic to intimidate and silence them. 

There are also other disproportionate impacts that are correlated to marginalised identities. For example, in the aftermath of natural disasters, only set to become more frequent and intense as the climate changes, LGBTQ+ individuals are routinely excluded from response, relief, and recovery efforts.

Particularly alarming is the increase in violence in large-scale agriculture, mining, and logging sectors against environmental (Indigenous) defenders. In 2020 alone 227 environmental and land defenders were killed for protecting their homes and the planet.

Forced displacement

The interplay between climate, conflict, poverty, and persecution significantly increases displacement rates. It’s important to note that displacement is the result of a complex process with many drivers, and is subject to demographic, historical, social, political, and economic factors. The climate crisis interacts with all of these factors.

The gendered impacts of forced displacement are another area of concern. There is a gendered displacement gap, referring to the gendered impacts of displacement due to structural gender discrimination, often exacerbated by poverty and instability. Indigneous women and ethnic minorities are often more impacted by displacement because their communities do not hold formal land or property titles. Displaced women suffer from lack of safety, gender-based violence, and disproportionately low access to economic opportunities.

Water insecurity

Less than three per cent of the world’s water resources is freshwater, and it is increasingly scarce. Decades of misuse, poor management, and over-extraction of groundwater, as well as contamination of freshwater supplies, have exacerbated water stress. Furthermore, demand for water is rising due to urbanisation and increasing water needs from a range of sectors, notably agriculture, energy production, and industrial activities.

Water insecurity is exacerbated by climate change and global warming through the disruption of weather patterns, leading to extreme weather events, unpredictable water availability, water scarcity, and the contamination of water supplies. Such impacts can drastically affect the quantity and quality of access to water that populations need to thrive. Rising temperatures can lead to deadly pathogens in freshwater sources, making the water dangerous for people to drink. Rising sea levels are causing fresh water to become salty, compromising the water resources millions of people rely on. The dwindling access to water leads to increased competition. If coupled with bad governance and other factors, this can lead to conflict and forced displacement.

The above mentioned risks disproportionately affect women and girls who usually bear the responsibility of finding and bringing clean water to their families. It is estimated that around the world, they spend around 200 million hours per day collecting this resource. These gendered impacts of water insecurity only exacerbate existing problems such as food insecurity, personal safety concerns and education setbacks in womens’ lives.

Ocean acidification is another manifestation of water insecurity and produces changes in marine ecosystems that have direct consequences for human societies that depend on the ocean for food and income-generating activities. It also hinders the ocean’s ability to store carbon and regulate the climate.

(Armed) Conflicts

Environmental destruction and the climate crisis correlate with the likelihood of (prolonged) conflicts. When impacts happen in a context of bad governance, corruption, and corporate capture, conflict-affected populations are more vulnerable in the wake of climate-related shocks, as normal coping mechanisms are unavailable. As well, environmental destruction and the climate crisis can pave the way towards perpetuation of conflict since armed actors can become the only alternative for livelihoods. Armed conflict related to control over natural resources also weakens communities’ capacity to adapt to the ecological crisis, and to explore avenues for conflict prevention and resolution.

Armed conflict and violent conflicts destroy and damage the environment, with militaries being one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels, further exacerbating global warming. The entire lifecycle of weapons’ production, testing, and use, from small arms to explosive or nuclear weapons, have huge repercussions, including biodiversity degradation, poisoned soils, and the pollution of water and air. These impacts only exacerbate the vulnerability of communities that depend on these vital resources.

All of these aspects of (armed) conflicts create a vicious cycle and conflict trap, with devastating impacts for the planet and people.

Freshwater withdrawals

Freshwater withdrawal is defined as freshwater taken from ground or surface water resources, either permanently or temporarily, and moved to a place of use. Withdrawing water faster than it can be replenished can undermine water resources’ ability to recharge, causing uncertainty around its ability to meet both present and future needs. Overexploitation of global fresh waters, such as pumping water into the ground for oil and gas extraction, can cause significant problems. This includes aquifer and lake exhaustion and contamination, saltwater intrusion into drinking water supplies close to seaside territories, as well as the loss of groundwater. Freshwater withdrawals hurt ecosystems, especially those that rely upon shallow ground water or streams.

Chemical Pollution

Chemical pollution is the presence of chemical pollutants that are not naturally present. Most of the chemicals that pollute the environment are human-made, resulting from activities in which toxic chemicals are used, such as oil refineries, coal power plants, construction, mining and smelting, transportation, agricultural use of pesticides and insecticides, as well as routine household activities such as cooking or cleaning. Airborne chemicals from products such as shampoo, perfume, and cleaning solutions eventually escape outside and contribute to ozone and fine particle formation, making up an even greater source of global atmospheric air pollution than cars and trucks do. These chemicals are to a large extent responsible for air pollution, the production of greenhouse gases, ozone depletion, and contamination of water and soil.

Climate Change and Global Warming

Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional, and global climates. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the pre-industrial period are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising the average surface temperature. These human-produced temperature increases are commonly referred to as “global warming”. 

The term “global warming” is frequently used interchangeably with the term “climate change”, though the latter refers to both human- and naturally produced warming and the effects it has on the planet.

Changes in global surface temperature have a broad range of observed effects such as global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; and more frequent and severe extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and precipitation, to name just a few.

Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification is the direct chemical effect of human-made carbon dioxide being absorbed into the oceans. Ocean acidification reduces the amount of carbonate, a key building block in seawater. The ocean becomes more acidic, which is eroding the shells of vital marine species including clams, oysters, urchins, and pteropods. These animals are part of the foundation of an enormous food web. Furthermore, ocean acidification could wipe out most coral reefs. Over the past 240 million years, they have evolved into one of the most important and complex ecosystems on the planet and are home to more than 25 per cent of marine species.

Land Conversion

Land conversion occurs when land is converted for human use. Forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other vegetation types have primarily been converted to agricultural land or for other economic activities, damaging or removing the habitat for wildlife and disrupting natural cycles. 

Industrialised agriculture constitutes a major problem, especially in the form of monocultures. This is a form of agriculture that is based on growing only one type of a crop at one time on a specific field. It upsets the natural balance of soils, requires higher amounts of water and the use of pesticides and herbicides, and decreases biodiversity. More recent effects of land use include soil erosion, soil degradation, salinisation, and desertification.

Land-use change, together with the use of fossil fuels, are major human-induced sources of carbon dioxide, a dominant greenhouse gas.

Biodiversity Loss

Biodiversity loss is defined as the decline in the number and variety of plant and animal species. This detrimental loss, caused by environmental degradation and global warming, throws off the balance and function of ecosystems. Loss of biodiversity means that plants and animals are more vulnerable to pests and diseases, posing a threat to humans and the planet. Biodiversity is rapidly declining. According to the IUCN red list of threatened species, a critical indicator that provides information about the health of the world’s biodiversity, there are currently more than 142,500 species under threat, including more than 40,000 species threatened with extinction.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is defined as the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of living beings. Pollutants of major public concern include carbon monoxide, which mainly comes from cars, trucks, and other vehicles or machinery that burn fossil fuels, and nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, whose emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity that is used for electric power generators, manufacturing, oil refineries, and other industries. Emissions of both sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are particularly dangerous since they deposit in water, on vegetation, and on soils as a form of precipitation known as “acid rain”. This precipitation is harmful as it causes adverse effects on flora and fauna by altering their ability to develop their natural cycles.

Ozone layer depletion

The ozone layer is a natural layer of gas in the upper atmosphere that protects living beings from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV).  Ultraviolet radiation affects wildlife and inhibits the growth processes of almost all green plants. Plants form the basis of the food web, prevent soil erosion and water loss, and are the primary producers of oxygen. They are also the primary storage site for carbon dioxide.

Certain human-made chemicals have been responsible for the creation of the Antarctic ozone hole and the global ozone losses. Since the ban on halocarbons (chemicals including solvents, fire-fighting agents, and refrigerants), the ozone layer has slowly been recovering. Nevertheless, the mitigation of ozone depletion is still very fragile and more action is required to remove pressure on the ozone caused by ozone depleting substances (ODS).

Women and gender Constituency

WILPF is a member of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) since early 2022. The WGC is one of the nine stakeholder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). It is working to ensure that women’s voices and their rights are embedded in all processes and results of the UNFCC framework.

Women's Major Group

WILPF is an active member of the Women’s Major Group (WMG). The WMG was created in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio and is one of the official stakeholder groups for UN sustainable development processes. It is facilitated by a team of Organising Partners, and brings women’s human rights and gender justice perspectives into UN policy processes on sustainable development. WILPF was a Global Organising Partner of the WMG from 2019-2020, where we spearheaded the development of the annual position paper, which outlines the position of the WMG on the theme of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, and helped lead their communications and campaigns for the HLPF in 2020. Every year, we contribute WILPF analysis on militarism, peace, and armed conflict to the WMG’s feminist advocacy for sustainable development.

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

In 2022, WILPF joined the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. Significant momentum is building behind the proposal for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. A Treaty would ensure international cooperation to explicitly stop the expansion of fossil fuels and manage a global just transition away from coal, oil and gas.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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