66th Session of Commission on the Status of Women: New Zealand National Statement


E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa, ka nui te honore, ki te mihi, ki a koutou

[Translation: Honoured leaders, I acknowledge and greet you all]

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Chair, I am honoured to participate in the sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. I am delighted to address you and my esteemed colleagues, and I look forward to when we are able to next meet in person.

Aotearoa New Zealand aligns with the statement delivered on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum member states.

If there is one lesson that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it is that crises and emergencies have the biggest impact on those who are already the most vulnerable. Climate change is no exception. Women and girls, especially indigenous, are disproportionately affected by climate change, and their voices must be at the centre of our response efforts to ensure a holistic, gender-responsive approach that leaves no-one behind.

Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to doing our part. Ahead of COP26, we increased our climate finance commitment to NZD $1.3 billion – a fourfold increase in the climate aid we provide to the Pacific and other lower-income countries. We also updated our Nationally Determined Contribution with a more ambitious goal to reduce our emissions by 50% by 2030. At COP26, we were pleased to join the Women Leading on Climate Coalition and the Glasgow Women’s Leadership Statement, joining the call on countries to further strengthen efforts to support women and girls to lead on addressing climate change at community, national, and international levels. Within our International Development Cooperation, Aotearoa New Zealand targets at least 4% of funding to programmes that have gender equality as the main objective.

Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to ensuring that our actions reflect the needs of communities who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and who are most severely impacted by climate change and disasters. This includes women and girls in all their diversity, particularly indigenous women, women in poverty, those with disabilities, and those in rural or remote communities. While women are disproportionately affected by disasters and climate change, women are also powerful agents of change. That’s why Aotearoa New Zealand supports climate change action that respects and promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women. This includes ensuring women are represented in climate change negotiations at all levels, and mainstreaming gender equality across New Zealand’s International Development Cooperation, disaster, and climate change activities.

We are especially mindful of the impact of climate change on our Pacific Island neighbours. Despite producing less than 0.03% of Global emissions, Pacific countries suffer disproportionately from the damage caused by climate change, in particular rising sea levels and extreme weather events. For example, the impact of climate change on oceans and fisheries is already having a direct impact on livelihoods and communities.

Aotearoa New Zealand recognizes the need for women’s meaningful participation in the development of disaster response and risk reduction policies, exhibited through our commitment to the Sendai Framework. We also recognise the importance of collaboration with women’s organisations in emergency management to ensure women’s needs are being met at the community level in the New Zealand National Resilience Strategy. Further, 80% of Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Welfare Managers across Aotearoa New Zealand are women.

We also know that in times of crisis, economic uncertainty and stress lead to an increase in sexual and gender-based violence, impact on sexual and reproductive health rights, and inhibit access to these services. We saw this happen with the rise of domestic violence in the COVID-19 shadow pandemic, and it is also true in the context of climate change and disasters. We must do all we can to ensure that the safety of women and girls is prioritised, and to protect their rights. Accordingly, Aotearoa New Zealand recently launched Te Aorerekura – the new 25-year national strategy and action plan to eliminate family violence and sexual violence and coordinate government action in this area.

COVID-19 has also sparked a comprehensive review of women’s employment and the barriers inhibiting women’s meaningful participation in the paid economy. In the economic and social shocks of the pandemic, women suffered disproportionately as pre-existing gender inequalities were exacerbated. We are developing an employment action plan to address these barriers, build resilience against future shocks, and ensure that all women have the opportunity and support to take up employment that works for them and their whānau (families).

We have also learnt from COVID-19 that crises are an opportunity to reset. We have the chance to ensure that our domestic and international responses are inclusive, sustainable, and gender-sensitive. Women must have a seat at the table, with meaningful participation and influence in decision-making. Gender-disaggregated data will be vital to building an improved understanding of the gendered impacts of climate change and disasters, and tailoring our responses accordingly. We know that the most vulnerable people, particularly women and girls, are most likely to shoulder the worst impacts of climate change. Action that centres on those most at risk will lead to the best outcomes for us all.

As our Prime Minister said when she joined the Women Leading on Climate Coalition: “Let’s take action, and let’s share how we can all weave new solutions, together”.

Ngā mihi nui.

Thank you.