Table of Contents

  • The immense social, economic and environmental consequences of climate change and loss of essential ecosystems are becoming clear. Their effects are already being felt in floods, droughts, and devastated landscapes and livelihoods. Among those most affected are women and girls, given the precariousness of their livelihoods, the burden of securing shelter, food, water and fuel that largely falls on them, and the constraints on their access to land and natural resources. As the global community grapples with the challenges of sustainable development and the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development 2014 asserts the central role of gender equality. It charts the rationale and actions necessary to achieve sustainable development.
  • UN Women would like to thank a number of experts and representatives across the United Nations system for their inputs into The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development 2014: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development.
  • The twin challenges of building pathways to sustainable development and achieving gender equality have never been more pressing. As the world moves towards the post-2015 development agenda, the present World Survey not only shows why each challenge is so important, but also why both challenges must be addressed together, in ways that fully realize the human rights of women and girls and help countries to make the transition to sustainable development.
  • The imperatives of achieving gender equality and attaining sustainable development were clearly acknowledged in the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
  • Growth trajectories should be assessed for their capacity to generate sustainable development. In order to ensure sustainable development with gender equality at its centre, any development policy framework needs to address a number of goals in addition to promoting growth: to reduce gender inequality, but also inequality on the basis of other factors; to create decent work and sustainable livelihoods for all; to internalize the costs of environmental degradation and climate change; and to ensure human well-being by providing public goods and supporting the care economy.
  • Achieving food security is a central part of sustainable development, across the three dimensions. The ability of people to realize their right to food, to feed themselves, is essential today, but so is the capacity of future generations to be able to exercise their right to food. Ensuring an end to malnutrition and hunger requires a focus on agriculture and food production systems both in their relationship with natural resources on the one hand, and with global and national economic structures and policies, on the other. Achieving that goal also requires analysis of the context-specific social relations, including unequal gender power relations that constrain access to food by individuals and households.
  • Population is a crucial aspect of sustainable development across its three dimensions. Population growth and decline, urban/rural location, migration, composition in terms of sex and age and a host of other factors all have an impact on economic growth and labour markets, health, the environment and the prospects for present and future generations. Population dynamics can significantly influence the possibilities for achieving a socially just and gender-responsive approach to sustainable development. The topic of population elicits debates about the relationships between humans and nature, men and women, old and young, rich and poor. Population policies often centre on women?s health, reproduction and sexuality. Population paradigms frequently attribute poverty to overpopulation; see the causes of environmental degradation and natural resource scarcity in population growth or mismanagement by poor people; and link reducing women?s fertility to mitigating climate change or preventing environmental destruction (UNDP, 2011).
  • This chapter develops an agenda for sustainable development, with particular emphasis on local priorities, poverty eradication and gender equality. It extends the argument of the previous chapters that sustainable development should enhance the capabilities of women and girls, so they are able ?to lead the lives they value ? and have reason to value? (Sen, 1999). Capability is akin to freedom, meaning the freedom to lead a particular life as opposed to another. Because the capabilities framework emphasizes choice in addition to outcomes of well-being (Nussbaum, 2000), it is only indirectly linked to specific bundles of goods and services. Yet in order to deliver tangible improvements for women and girls, investments must be directed towards sectors from which they can benefit the most. The term ?investment? is used to denote financial, social and institutional efforts aimed at creating future benefits for humans and their environments. This chapter highlights four domains with a particularly strong potential to transform the lives of women and girls: domestic water, safe sanitation, clean(er) cookstoves and domestic electricity services. Expanding access to these goods and services can improve gender equality directly and specifically, because women suffer disproportionately from their absence (Antonopoulos and Hirway, 2010; Anenberg and others, 2013). There is ample evidence, for example, that the physical burden of food, fuel and water collection reduces women?s capabilities relative to their own potential and relative to those of men (e.g., Cecelski, 1984; Ray, 2007).
  • The present World Survey has examined the important links between gender equality and sustainability. The World Survey is published at a crucial moment, at a time when the international community has recognized that dominant patterns of development and growth are unsustainable in economic, social and environmental terms and is defining the future sustainable development agenda. The Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals, the establishment of which was mandated in the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, has since worked on a proposal for future sustainable development goals. The vital importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women as a core part of the post-2015 development agenda has been a strong and recurring theme in the discussions of the Open Working Group.