Where does the real power lie in Global Britain? Is it with the men?

by 24th Sep 2020
Women with sign at March4Women 2020 Women with sign at March4Women 2020

The UK’s integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy should be a real opportunity to reframe our country’s external engagement with the world in light of where we are in 2020. But as the UK government chooses a COP26 team that is all-male I have to ask myself; truly – does this demonstrate a government that really understands where we are in 2020?

CARE’s submission to the Integrated Review outlines the priorities we believe our government needs to have. These are detailed and evidenced and include prioritising efforts to address COVID-19, Climate and Conflict. Our recommendations recognise we are part of an interconnected world where threats and risks don’t stop at borders, however much we might want them to. 

Above all our submission outlines in detail why it is critical that women’s leadership and gender equality are central to how our country engages the world. Global threats play out along lines of power and exclusion. And they are central to what we identify as a threat and what we are prepared to live with on a day to day basis.

Our evidence from working in 100 countries and interviewing 10,000 people for CARE’s report She Told Us So has shown that threats like COVID-19 do not affect people equally. They have greater impact on those with less power and privilege to manage them. We know from the evidence that whilst the economic impact of the health crisis is significant for all of us it is particularly devastating to women’s livelihoods and incomes. We know that gender-based violence has become a parallel pandemic, and above all we know that what impacts women, impacts families, communities and generations.

We also know from the science and evidence that climate change is one of the world’s biggest threats. And that the world must come together urgently to reduce carbon emissions at the COP26 global summit being held in the UK in 2021. We have seen important commitments by states like China to become carbon neutral by 2060 even when we have not yet seen their carbon emissions peak.  

CARE’s submission to the Integrated Review emphasizes the importance of recognising climate change as a significant global threat that should shape our foreign policy. And because of this we ask that the UK aligns the economic recovery to COVID-19 to the Paris Climate Agreement that covers carbon emissions commitments. But above all we ask that the UK consider the gendered impact of climate change and align our efforts with the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The climate crisis affects women and girls more. It is as simple as that. They are worst hit in emergencies, their livelihoods worst affected, their caring responsibilities go up, they miss out on education or are married off early. And yet women and girls are the least likely to have access to any of the scarce funds available to address the crisis, nor to have a say in how this is done. It seems that COP26 may replicate this gender injustice on the global stage.

For the UK government to have an all-male team to host COP26 is a devastating indictment of what Global Britain stands for. As this team goes into a critical global moment to tackle the overwhelming threat of climate change, it demonstrates and embodies a failure to understand a second threat  that kills and harms millions of people every day: Gender inequality!

Thank you to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting CARE’s climate advocacy work.

Katherine Nightingale

After 10+ years working in the development and humanitarian sector I remain passionate about putting disaster and conflict-affected people at the heart of humanitarian response, security and disaster risk governance.

I really enjoy what I do: the creative problem-solving, the people management, the relationship brokering both within and between agencies, government, communities, UN, media, etc. I enjoy the community-engagement and working together to deliver effective programmes on the ground. The true policy wonk within relishes researching technical and political innovations across the sector, and my West Wing side revels in developing and delivering the political strategies for change.

I am inspired by creative arts, continue to be involved in writing and film projects, and am honored to be on the board of Ice & Fire www.iceandfire.co.uk exploring human rights through theatre and performance.

Email: KNightingale@careinternational.org

Twitter: @kat_night