Adopting such a lens is a way to work towards “leaving no-one behind”, a key principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is also a practical strategy to increase the quality of a project’s activities and outcomes: applying a GESEP perspective allows for a better understanding of both the situation on the ground, and people’s relationship to the environment.
In this video below, we describe the links between environmental problems and issues of gender, poverty and social inequality. We then explore why it is important to include a diverse range of perspectives in environmental decision-making, and we explain how inclusive facilitation can ensure that such perspectives are represented, heard and incorporated into outcomes.
How environmental problems affect people unfairly
Environmental problems – such as those from climate change, or from air, soil and water pollution and degradation – can have serious impacts on people’s health and livelihoods. As highlighted through the environmental justice movement, certain populations are particularly vulnerable and disproportionately affected by these impacts. For instance, an individual’s age or pre-existing health conditions can create elevated health risks when exposed to air pollution or heat waves. Those living in poverty may find it difficult to adapt to environmental changes without access to needed financial and social resources. Women, racial or ethnic minorities, immigrants, migrants and other minority groups are often among the most vulnerable. GESEP concerns can even surface from proposed policy and technological solutions that aim to addres environmental problems. For example, carbon taxes on goods like vehicle fuels can have additional cost burdens on the poor. One way to address this is through revenue recycling programs which gives money a proportion of the tax revenue to lower income households. Without appropriate planning, some people will be worse off despite environmental gains.
Meaningful integration of different views
In accordance with the Principles of Environmental Justice, meaningful and equal participation of marginalized groups should be a requirement in environmental decision-making. When conducting environmental research and planning projects, GESEP should be prioritized early on and throughout the life of the project. At the beginning of a project, these efforts will guide the methodology, and identify where more data and representation may be needed. Having a diverse and balanced representation of views within a project team (including partners) and among stakeholders can help ensure that GESEP issues are identified and addressed. Having a diverse range of stakeholders and participants is an essential start, but it is not enough. Projects must allow stakeholders and participants to voice a range of perspectives, and must ensure that decision-making processes integrate these perspectives.
Many techniques can facilitate meaningful inclusion and participation. The first steps are to understand cultural norms and behaviors, and to engage people in ways that make them feel most comfortable. Such efforts could include different methods for disseminating information – such as webinars, newspapers, or radio shows – and different forums for discussion – such as meetings (both in-person and online) or surveys. Moreover, those who facilitate stakeholder engagement processes must ensure that members of marginalized groups have opportunities to speak, and that members of dominant groups listen to them. Inclusion empowers individuals to actively engage in generating knowledge and making decisions. The inclusion of more voices increases the likelihood that solutions and policies will be just, equitable and sustainable, and that the decisions will reflect the diversity of people affected.
Watch the video, and learn more about how to set the stage for more inclusive decision-making and policy development.