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Gender Action 2020 Annual Fundraising Letter
Dear Gender Action Supporters and Would-be Supporters,
This holiday season letter starts by celebrating victories holding taxpayer- funded International Financial Institutions (IFIs) accountable for gender and climate impacts, then discusses challenges ahead.
Two victories related to our 2019 case study prepared with partners, Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement (LSD) in Senegal and WoMin African Alliance, on the Senegal Sendou coal plant financed by the African Development Bank, are described below after sharing findings: Our case study showed that women, who produce and process more than 80% of local foodstuffs, were disproportionately harmed by handling water and soil polluted by the coal plant emissions. Pollution also caused respiratory diseases among the local population. Women's unpaid work caring for sick household members increased. Coal combustion emissions exacerbated climate change.
Around the time our case study was published, two victories occurred: First, the Sendou coal plant closed after one year of operations. Second, the AfDB committed to stop financing coal projects. Our case demonstrated how a fossil fuel-generating project's pollution harmed women who, according to the dominant gender division of labor, carry primary responsibility for putting food on tables and caring for households and community ecosystems. Stopping IFI fossil fuel projects curbs our planetary climate crisis.
Gender Action is also trying to ensure IFIs accelerate transitioning away from fossil fuels through other advocacy. Take the World Bank. Citizen groups persuaded the World Bank to commit to end investments in coal by 2013 and upstream oil and gas projects by 2020, while transitioning into renewable energy investments. However, these promises have been inadequately kept: World Bank spending on fossil fuel projects still surpasses renewable energy financing. Gender Action is keeping the heat on the World Bank and other IFIs to meet their clean energy commitments.
Gender Action just published a new report, Unmet Gender Promises: making IFI projects and policies deliver on gender-equal rights, which analyzes and scores a dozen IFI's gender policies and Environmental and Social Framework's (ESF's) gender and climate sensitivity, while examining their implementation through nine fieldwork case studies. Our recommendations include that IFIs lacking gender policies must create and implement strong mandatory policies; IFIs having weak gender policies must strengthen theirs; ESFs, which mostly fail to address women's primary roles managing and protecting the environment, natural resources and biodiverse ecosystems, must address these intertwined issues. Of course implementation is pivotal.
Scrutinizing proliferating IFI covid-19 responses has been another Gender Action 2020 priority. Many IFIs are funding covid-recovery projects to bolster public health and social systems. This is just what is needed -- if only these projects were grants rather than loans. But most IFI covid-19 responses are loans that lock countries into debt cycles requiring more borrowing to service debt at the expense of human wellbeing. Borrower countries, devastated by the pandemic, cannot afford to repay debt now or later. Rich developed countries can afford debt-creating stimulus packages to help people through covid-19's worst-in-a-century recession. Poor developing countries cannot afford them.
We have a model to address this issue: Following Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, citizen groups including Gender Action successfully persuaded IFIs to cancel Haiti's debt and provide grants only going forward. No other country in the world has received such favorable IFI investment terms. We are promoting these terms for other countries during the pandemic. Additionally, Gender Action supports a campaign calling on the International Monetary Fund to issue emergency Special Drawing Rights (SDRs - which are convertible to cash) to developing countries. SDRs bear zero debt at little or no cost to developed countries. Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is promoting this debt-free SDR solution for developing countries during the pandemic's economic recession. The current US administration has vetoed this solution but we are hopeful that the incoming administration will approve it.
Women disproportionately bear the brunt of public spending cuts that track developing countries debt repayments to IFIs. Publicly-financed services are a lifeline for women whose economic contributions as providers of child and eldercare and domestic work often go unpaid. Women's unpaid and underpaid work reflects their low education levels: Nearly two thirds of the world's 781 million illiterate adults are women, a proportion that has remained unchanged for two decades, according to Oxfam's 2020 global poverty data. Women's survival depends on public services which debt repayments squeeze.
Join us to achieve debt, climate and gender justice by holding the powerful public banks accountable to meet their promises to ensure everyone has access to food, health care and other basic needs in a climate-sustainable world.
Gender Action's important work depends on your support. Please contribute by clicking genderaction.org's "Donate Here" button or mailing a check to Gender Action, 925 H Street NW, Suite 410, Washington DC 20001.
Thanks for your support and Happy Holidays!