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Women's intervention acclaimed by many
Intervention session 1, 2nd intersessional Rio+20, New York

I am Anita Nayar representing a network of feminist activists & academics from the
global South called Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era. On behalf of
the Women?s Major Group, I would like to raise five priority actions toward Rio+20:

1. Twenty years ago the global women?s movement secured over 172 references to
women and an entire chapter on women in Agenda 21. I was a youth activist at that
time, inspired by the sustainable development paradigm and that it cannot be realized
without gender equality. Today I see a radical regression, as there is little to no
mention of women in the inter-governmental process leading up to Rio+20.
So our first call to action is for governments to reaffirm that gender is crosscutting in
development processes and that gender equality and women?s human rights are vital
to achieving sustainable development. As we frame the proposed Sustainable
Development Goals, we simply cannot let these two processes fall back on separate

2. But how do we realise the promise of sustainable development in the midst of coping
with repeated crises? There is an urgent need to change mindsets and to realise that
limitless economic growth does not equate with wellbeing or sustainability. New
indicators and data show us that what counts for wellbeing is more equal societies1
and some developing countries are achieving these well-being indicators with very
low carbon emissions.2
So our second call is to recognize the unequal and unfair burden that women carry in
sustaining our collective wellbeing. We therefore need indicators of the time women
spend on performing unpaid or underpaid work in order to value social reproduction
and reflect it in macroeconomic policy making.

3. We must also realise that in times of economic crisis and in the absence of social
insurance systems, women?s unpaid labour acts as a stabilizer and increases their
So our third call is for a universal social protection floor3 that entails basic social
security and health care including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health
services. This is critical especially for women living in poverty who are locked into
precarious reproductive work and in many places are deprived of their bodily,
reproductive and sexual rights. We simply must respond to the demands of the 99%
and pursue policies that favour human rights and social provisioning over profit.

4. Such a human rights-based approach would also monitor, regulate and hold
corporations accountable for their ecologically and socially unsustainable practices.
This means protecting small farmers from financial speculation and land grabbing
including for large scale agrofuel plantations; banning technologies such as geoengineering
and GMOs and subjecting any new technologies to comprehensive
assessments including their environmental health implications; phasing out nuclear
energy and seeking fresh and up-scaled financial resources to provide essential
energy access to women in developing countries and shift the world to renewable
So our fourth call is to halt the privatization and commodification of our commons
and protect women?s rights to land, water, energy and other resources, as well as to
food, health, education and employment. This will benefit all of humankind.
5. Finally, we are seeing a disturbing return to neo-Malthusian arguments linking
population with the food and climate crises. Let me share two examples from
contributions to the Zero Draft for Rio+20. Some UN agencies claim ?early
stabilization of world population would make a crucial contribution to realizing
sustainable development.?4 Demographers claim that ?slowing population growth,
makes many environmental problems easier to solve and development easier to

5 These arguments represent a serious regression from the Rio, Cairo and
Beijing agendas.
So our fifth call is to recover this consensus that ?the major cause of the continued
deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable patterns of consumption
and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which are a matter of grave
concern and aggravate poverty and imbalances.? Rio+20 must be clear that policy
responses to population reaffirm the Cairo principles to prioritise women?s and girls
sexual and reproductive rights and health in the context of fulfilling sustainable
livelihoods, meeting basic needs, protecting their rights, and creating an enabling
environment for their empowerment, leadership and political participation.

1 See Pickett and Wilkinson
2 See Social Watch
3 See Social protection floor: for a fair and inclusive globalisation from the Social Protection Advisory
Group chaired by USG Michelle Bachelet.
4 See Joint Submission by UNFPA and the Population Division
5 See The Laxenburg Declaration on Population and Sustainable Development
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