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Reflecting on women’s rights to a healthy ocean, based on the 2023 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Elisa Morgera, Senia Febrica et al

One Ocean Hub, University of Strathclyde, UK

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  • Gender Rights,
  • ocean-climate nexus,
  • small-scale fishers,
  • Ocean Governance,
  • women,
  • inequalities
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  • Policy makers,
  • Researchers,
  • Artists,
  • Community workers
  • English
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The UN Special Rapporteur underscores the urgency of gender-transformative actions for ecological sustainability and gender equality, noting the overlooked role of women in the ocean context.

Published on February 28 2023, this blog discusses how the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment emphasizes the imperative of urgent, gender-transformative, rights-based climate and environmental actions to achieve gender equality and ecological sustainability. While the report primarily focuses on women’s and girls’ human rights to a healthy environment, it touches on the interlinked role of women in the context of the ocean.

The report acknowledges that women’s contributions to the marine sector, particularly in small-scale fisheries, are critical. Women’s involvement along the entire economic value chain often goes unrecognized. This gender disparity extends to coastal and marine areas, where women play essential roles but are often excluded from decision-making processes. The report highlights the need to dismantle systemic discrimination, promote equal rights, and provide equal opportunities for women and girls in various aspects of ocean-related activities.

The study emphasizes the adverse impacts of environmental degradation on women and girls, covering various areas including clean air, water, food, biodiversity, and safe climate. It underlines that climate change adaptation is often more challenging for women due to gender norms and limited access to resources.

The report underscores the significance of businesses respecting the rights of women and girls, stressing the importance of due diligence, disclosure of impacts, and gender-equal policies within corporate operations. Additionally, the Rapporteur calls for gender-transformative measures to address root causes of gender-based discrimination.

Although the report primarily addresses terrestrial contexts, its principles are relevant to ocean governance, emphasizing the need for holistic, gender-responsive, and inclusive approaches in ensuring a healthy marine environment and sustainable ocean uses. Ongoing research efforts, like those under the One Ocean Hub, further contribute to understanding and promoting the role of women in ocean-related activities.