Nordic Council of Ministers at Rio+20 – Women are needed for a sustainable future

No sustainable development without equal rights. That was the clear message coming from a Nordic Council of Ministers’ seminar at Rio+20 on the interconnection between gender, equality, welfare , green economy and the climate.

Sustainable development cannot be achieved without equality between women and men. Social and economic discrimination affecting women is a great hindrance towards economic growth and development worldwide and women play a key role in the establishment of sustainable societies, according to leading experts in sociology and development studies.

A seminar organized by the Nordic Council of Ministers in connection with the Rio+20 conference in sustainable development set out to explore the connection between gender equality, welfare, climate and the green economy.

– Green jobs contribute to all aspects of sustainable development, but labour market policies have to be formulated to upgrade the skills of women in a green economy, said Telma Viale from the ILO, who presented the discouraging statistic that out of the part of world population living under the poverty line, two thirds are women.

She was seconded by a leading scholar on politics and social issues , Sarah Cook from the United Nations Institute for Social Development:

– The inclusion of women in the labour force is crucial for economic development, all reaserch tells us. So there is no justification for the continued inequality even in economic terms. And if you look at sustainability, women are both the main stewards of the environment and the prime caretakers of the family, she said in her presentation.

Cook added that gender equality is good for growth, but growth does not necessarily lead to more equality, so there is a great need for political measure and action to ensure that.

Gender and climate

Norwegian Environment Minister Bård Vegar Solhjell also looked at the interlinkage between climate and gender:

– A changing climate leave women more vulnerable than men. But women also often contribute more to reducing emissions, the minister said.

Sohjell gave the example of a Brazilian programme to reduce deforestation, that focused on engaging women and mothers due to their greater sense of responsibility towards the family and the community.

One of the grand old ladies of Nordic poltics, Finnish President Tarja Halonen, is also co-chair of the UN Secretary General’s high-level panel on Global Sustainability.

Nordic women have been a strong force in the panel, she pointed out. But also struck a note of caution in terms of the issue of cultural differences:

– Any serious shift towards sustainable development requires gender equality. But one size does not fit all, when we take into consideration traditions and social values. Still, certain priciples must be upheld, said Halonen in the panel debate.

Interactive participation

The audience was actively engaged throughout the seminar via the use of an interactive voting system. According to this mini survey almost two thirds did not expect Rio+20 to lead to any improvements in terms of gender equality. And at the same time 71 % saw increased participation in the political decisionmaking as as crucial to improvement in terms of gender equality.

The seminar was part of the programme of the Nordic Council of Ministers at Rio+20. This includes three seminars and one official side event, plus a stand at the official exhibition space connected to the conference.

Read more at, including a blog with articles from high ranking politicians to opinion makers from the NGO and business community.

You can also follow the Nordic activities in Rio at


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