Integrating gender considerations into Lao PDR’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

This blog was originally posted on 31 October on iucn.org here.

On 4 and 5 September, 38 representatives across government ministries, academia, civil society and international organisations attended the “Elaboration of the Gender Roadmap for Laos NBSAP [National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan]” workshop in Vientiane, Lao PDR. The two-day event resulted in a draft national roadmap for implementing gender considerations in Lao PDR’s NBSAP. This marks an important step towards gender equity in regional biodiversity management.

The objectives of the workshop were to build participants’ understanding of the links between gender and biodiversity and of how international and national legal frameworks influence gender equality in biodiversity management; to identify entry points for gender considerations in the Lao PDR NBSAP; and to develop a roadmap for implementation.

“National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans offer opportunities to promote women’s empowerment and to integrate gender equality considerations in biodiversity planning and management,” said Annette Wallgren, Gender and Environment officer for UN Environment in Asia and the Pacific.

“The workshop is the first step towards incorporating gender related issues into the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP),” said Dr Inthavy Akkarat, Director of Water Resources for the Department of Forest Resources and Management, and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) National Focal Point

The workshop first focused on developing participants’ understanding of the role of gender in biodiversity, first looking to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) international frameworks, and then investigating the national context of Lao PDR’s NBSAP. Presenters included the Lao Women’s Union (LWU) and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), who explained the gender roles assigned to men and women and how these roles impact their relationship with the environment. Participants discussed how and where an understanding of these gendered relationships can be integrated into the national NBSAP.

“Women and men can rely on the exact same ecosystem, but the way they interact with it may be completely different because of the way that gender roles are defined,” said Phoutsakhone Ounchith, Head of the IUCN office in Lao PDR. “So it’s important that women also have a say in conservation planning, because they offer a new perspective from the one that men have.”

Participants also developed and discussed recommendations for mainstreaming gender not just into biodiversity management through the NBSAP, but also into policy, with an emphasis on building capacity for implementation. Participants agreed that stakeholders at three different levels – systemic (policy-making), institutional (at the organisation or ministerial level) and human resources (individual) – needed to be targeted for capacity-building interventions.

The workshop was a flagship event for gender mainstreaming in the region, and the participating organisations will continue to elaborate on the roadmap.

IUCN Asia, in close cooperation with UN Environment, UN Women, GIZ, the Secretariat to the CBD , and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, have been working to support the promotion and integration of gender considerations in biodiversity policy and management, and have adopted a coordinated approach to incorporating gender into NBSAPs across the Asia region. Lao PDR was chosen as a pilot case for this on-the-ground activity due to the country’s previous engagement with gender-responsive policy, and willingness to participate in ongoing gender related initiatives.

The workshop report is available here.