Targeting support to women

Article, 31 July 2020

The European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi) Training and Support Programme aims to increase female participation in training workshops, support more women to attend the UN climate negotiations and track participants’ involvement in the negotiations themselves.

People sitting on a large table and taking notes

Women participants at a Nepal workshop received training and support to address the gender gap at the UNFCCC negotiations (Photo: Brianna Craft, IIED)

One of the aims of the training and support programme was to see women negotiators become more active in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. To do this, we directly supported women to attend the climate negotiations.

In parallel, we also worked to achieve gender-balanced training workshops and tracked our participants’ involvement in the UN climate negotiations.

Direct support to women

Our programme enabled us to offer bursaries to selected junior negotiators to help them become experts in the negotiating process. Recipients were women from the least developed countries – the group that has the largest gender imbalance in the UNFCCC attendance overall.

We provided logistical support to allow women who had participated in relatively few UNFCCC sessions to attend the climate negotiations. These ‘junior negotiators’ joined their peers for daily check-ins, where they learned from IIED staff and each other about the complex UNFCCC process and how to integrate into the appropriate negotiating blocs.

A woman seated at a table speaks into a microphone

Xaysomphone Souvannavong, of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, contributes to the discussion at a workshop before COP23 in Bonn in 2017, (Image: Matt Wright, IIED)

Bursary recipients such as Xaysomphone Souvannavong and Fatima Athoumani were also encouraged to document their experiences and the lessons they had learned by writing blogs that charted the sharp learning curve of an LDC negotiator and how they learned to make their voice count at the UN climate negotiations. 

Among this group was Danise Love Dennis, from Liberia, who wrote a diary about her year-long learning journey – from the ecbi training to negotiating for her country at COP25, which was hosted by Chile in Madrid, Spain.

Other bursary recipients have explained how the training and support programme has helped them improve their preparation for and participation in the negotiations.

I think I have a better understanding now of how to go to negotiations and I know how to prepare. For example, it takes a certain type of language. Clear, consistent, coherent. – female training participant, bursary holder

Gender-balanced workshops to increase women’s participation

During our regional training workshops in 2016, we noticed we weren’t seeing equal numbers of male and female participants. Like the UN climate negotiations themselves, most of the delegates the governments elected to send were men.

In response, we revamped our approach. In the invitation letters, we made clear the importance of nominating a gender-balanced group of participants. At the end of each workshop, we distributed certificates stating the skills the participants had gained and invited them back to attend the following year.

With these efforts, each year we attracted more female participants to our workshops. A review of our work between 2016 and 2018 showed promising results: we trained the same number of women and men.

A woman smiles as she is presented with a certificate by another women

Hellen Wilson Tom, of Vanuatu, and Elda Cesaltina da Costa Guterres, from Timor Leste receive certificates at the end of an ecbi training workshop in Nepal in 2019 (Photo: copyright Prakriti Resources Centre)

After five years of workshops, 48% of our participants were female. When we compared this against the ratios in the negotiations process as a whole, using the UNFCCC ‘Report on gender composition’(PDF) that in 2019 stated that 37% of delegates were women, we saw that the ecbi training and support programme is surpassing the gender balance of the negotiations process overall, and helping increase the chances that women can be part of their countries’ delegations at the international climate negotiations. 

Tracking participation in negotiations 

Equipping delegates with the skills they need to participate in the UN climate negotiations is just half the story. We also wanted to see how many of our participants, having been trained, were put forward to represent their country at the international negotiations. Were the rates different for men and women?

In 2019, Brianna Craft and Samantha McCraine looked at how well women are represented in spaces where international decisions on climate change are made, and in 2020, the duo detailed further efforts to bring more women to the UN climate change negotiations.

We scoured UNFCCC attendance lists and found that around half of those we had trained, and equal numbers of women and men, went on to join their country delegations.

The key to meaningful engagement is continuity, so we also tracked who participated in multiple sessions of the climate negotiations.

Again, of the men and women we trained, the number chosen to continually participate was relatively equal: 19 of the women we trained (24%) attended two or more negotiating sessions, compared to the 31 men we trained (30%) who attended more than twice. Notably, the three participants who attended all seven UNFCCC negotiations from 2016-18 were men.

Seated panellists give a presentation in front of a giant screen

IIED senior researcher Brianna Craft, right, presents research at the UNFCCC gender workshop in Bonn in June 2019 (Photo: copyright Jennifer Jun)


Brianna Craft (, senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group

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