A group of men and women in colorful shirts gather inside of a building and talk in small groups.
REDD+ community consultations in Fiji addressed prior and informed consent, benefit-sharing, resource-conflict under the USAID RISE Challenge, gender-based risk, and gender-based violence.

Climate Change, Resource Conflict, and Gender-Based Violence

Tackling Resource-Based Conflict with a Gender-Responsive Resolution Mechanism in Fiji
By Corey Nelson, Allison Annette Foster

Climate change is one of our world’s most dangerous security threats, and its compounding effects—drought and other extreme weather events—have already led to a reduction of scarce natural resources. Climate change impacts land use, fresh water supply, and clean air and places a disproportionate burden on vulnerable and marginalized populations, especially women and girls.

Development solutions that seek to address or mitigate the impacts of climate change through carbon offset programs can deliver multiple benefits, such as reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and protecting important biodiversity.

However, these climate initiatives do not always result in equitable, positive change for all community members. Carbon offset programs create incentives for communities to conserve forests and biodiversity by providing payment for conservation efforts. But this influx of money can heighten conflicts over the access, use, management, and control of forests and land. Vulnerable and high-risk groups, like women and female-headed households, who depend on forest use for their livelihood, often have less agency in claiming benefits and may never receive compensation for the use of their land.

However, these climate initiatives do not always result in equitable, positive change for all community members. 

If left unexamined, these types of carbon-cutting and biodiversity conservation programs can inadvertently aggravate existing tensions or generate new conflicts. Development initiatives that address climate change and shift power dynamics around the management of natural resources must account for and respond to unintended consequences, such as the increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV) for women and vulnerable groups.

USAID’s Resilient, Inclusive, Sustainable Environments Challenge

“Women, as always, are not in the frontline [of decision-making], even though they are the ones at the frontline facing the problems, the challenges of natural resource development. When there is a problem, it’s women that face the problem,” said one Fiji REDD+ respondent.

The USAID RISE Challenge is addressing the linkages between GBV and environmental programming. For instance, in Fiji, USAID is working with the National REDD+ Programme (in partnership with the World Bank) to develop a principled, consistent, inclusive, and legitimate process that addresses disputes and mitigates conflicts that may arise over natural resources as a result of conservation programming.

Under a predecessor World Bank initiative, a feedback, grievance, and redress mechanism (FGRM) was developed to help address the unintended consequences of REDD+ programming. The FGRM was designed to be both customized to country context, need, and resource availability, and iterative, adaptable and flexible. It serves as a mediation process in disputes, acting on behalf of forest users, building upon customary approaches for resolution, and complementing existing legal structures and systems to find solutions.

“…It’s always the men that make the decisions in terms of natural resource development, even though women are recognized that they have the biggest impact on the development of a resource. But when it comes to decision-making, they are always the last voice or second voice as compared to the husbands, the men,” said a Fiji REDD+ respondent.

The FGRM+ provides a much-needed gender-responsive blueprint for tackling resource-based conflict further aggravated by environmental conservation initiatives. 

With funding from USAID’s RISE Challenge, mechanisms to mitigate gender-based risks and address GBV have been integrated into a remodeled “FGRM+” using a design methodology that emphasizes close stakeholder partnership, continuous learning and adaptation, cost effectiveness, and clear sustainability metrics that enable self-reliance. The FGRM+ adds components to the grievance submission process and approaches in the review and response pathway that protect women at risk, recognize, and immediately respond to high-risk situations, and link to resources that support and empower women and vulnerable complainants. The FGRM+ also includes protocols that protect privacy and training guidelines that encourage safe and respectful grievance uptake and response.

The FGRM+ design is currently in its final stages of approval by the Fijian government, the World Bank, USAID gender and land rights experts, and key REDD+ stakeholders. Community landowners and local and national civil society organizations who are part of the Fiji REDD+ Programme have played an active role in shaping the FGRM+, participating in the design and extensive field analysis.

The FGRM+ provides a much-needed gender-responsive blueprint for tackling resource-based conflict further aggravated by environmental conservation initiatives. It incorporates protections for women and vulnerable groups into conservation programs and safeguards against unintended negative consequences of development solutions. The FGRM+ is a resource efficient, adaptable framework that can be easily scaled and incorporated into new and existing environmental programming, which in turn can help development practitioners, host nation governments, and communities understand the linkages and true impacts of conservation and benefit-sharing activities.

For more information:

USAID RISE Challenge Marstel Day Fact Sheet

Strategic Objective
Climate Policy, Climate Risk Management, Gender and Social Inclusion, Resilience

Corey Nelson

Corey Nelson has over 16 years’ experience directing business coalitions committed towards climate action and more sustainable practices, driving international transformation for multi-million donor-funded initiatives that support the development of inclusive resilient networks, and empowering communities, cities, and organizations to better adapt, respond, and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Her extensive work in international development has positioned her as a trusted adviser to host governments, the private sector, local organizations, and communities on climate risk, design and implementation of sustainability strategies, and setting an environmental vision that combines bold performance metrics and science-based targets with comprehensive strategies to address environmental challenges. She engages decision-makers through innovative policy, technical, and financial solutions for the protection and management of natural capital investments.

At Marstel-Day, Ms. Nelson is the Emerging Markets Lead, responsible for leading and managing a range of multi- and bi-lateral donor-funded projects and private-public partnership activities across the globe, as well directing business development for this service line. She is focused on building key working partnerships with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC), the Banks, the Department of State (DoS), and United Nations (UN) agencies and supporting corporations on risk and resiliency planning.

Allison Annette Foster

Allison Annette Foster brings 20+ years of leadership in international development, building global and local partnerships to advance economic prosperity and social equity.  Ms. Foster works across multiple sectors with expertise in social and behavior sciences that drive cultural norms that enable and inform intervention strategies that will be locally owned and sustained. Ms. Foster provides guidance and support to governments, global development agencies, and local partners on policies, practices, processes, and interventions that produce the highest value return on development investments. Ms. Foster also brings her expertise in both qualitative and quantitative research to guide international teams in evaluations, formative research, and field assessments.  Ms. Foster has served on numerous research advisory boards and review committees, is published in several peer reviewed journals, and has presented her work in international conferences. Ms. Foster joined WI-HER in January 2020, to guide the technical programs and support organizational growth. She leads program teams, steers partner relationships, and supports growth strategies

Ms. Foster is passionate about creating equitable opportunities for empowered girls and boys. She is committed to enabling access to education, economic opportunities, and religious freedoms so that women and men can thrive and prosper in their communities and enjoy human rights and agency in their countries. She is a tireless champion of the most vulnerable, serving also on the Executive Board of the Journey Home Foundation; an organization that rescues and trains women and girls at risk of violence and human trafficking in Nepal; and on the Executive Board of the Big Big World Foundation, which supports orphans and vulnerable children in Vietnam.

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