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Power and gender inequalities can constrain and undermine climate change adaptation. Those who are vulnerable and marginalized, with limited access to resources and assets, are already facing formidable barriers in adapting to climate change. Ignoring this challenge is maladaptive, as it adds to the vulnerabilities of those already burdened disproportionately and encourages new types of exclusions. Meeting the challenge requires that we transform our societies into fairer and more just organizations. Unfettering the agency of individuals and collective groups, through policies and actions that promote gender-transformative adaptation, can help achieve this change.

In this background paper, we are seeking ways to use a gender-transformative lens to account for the social nature of major adaptation efforts in key systems and to understand the political, economic, social, and cultural practices and norms that shape, but may also distort, people’s adaptation efforts. Specifically, the paper aims to:

  • Explore how gender is an important way to understand inequalities in emerging adaptation efforts and programs in key systems; and
  • Recommend actions, based on the report findings about specific systems and institutions engaged in climate change adaptation, that enable gender-transformative adaptatin.

The paper is organized according to systems with planned and operational adaptation measures. The systems include the natural environment; food security, rural livelihoods and agriculture; sustainable cities; infrastructure; industry and supply chains; and finance. The paper also highlights gender-transformative adaptation initiatives. This is followed by a stocktaking of institutional enablers of change that can be utilized and tapped to strengthen efforts at gender-transformative climate change adaptation. The paper ends with a summary of main findings and their respective recommendations.

The team of authors conducted a review of the relevant peer-reviewed research and gray literature on gender and climate change adaptation emerging over the last decade and covering gender and adaptation in the Global North and South. Our review leans more toward adaptation contexts in the Global South due in large part to availability of literature. The paper has been reviewed in iterative stages by external reviewers and was discussed in a one-and-a-half-day participatory review workshop attended by selected representatives from government, international finance, research, civil society, and UN organizations.


  • Publisher: SEI- Stockholm Enviornment Institute
  • Author(s): Bernadette P. Resurrección, Beth A. Bee, Irene Dankelman, Clara Mi Young Park, Mousumi Haldar, and Catherine P. McMullen
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