Women and youth participants taking notes during a gender workshop in Naviavia, Fiji, 2022

In October 2025, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 - the foundational resolution for the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda - turns 25. In the same year, the Kyoto Protocol turns 20 and the Paris Agreement will be 10 years old. Despite the decades spent progressing the WPS agenda and efforts to tackle climate change, the intersection between climate security and gender remains marginal in the debate on security, conflict and peacebuilding.  

Yet global analysis provides a compelling case for the closer integration of this work. One study of countries’ performance on WPS against climate resilience and environmental performance highlighted strong and causal relationships, and further research has demonstrated a negative correlation between countries' performance on climate action and gender inequality

This roundtable sought to shed light on the relevance of gender norms and power dynamics to the security impacts of climate change - and to highlight how burgeoning research and evidence on this matter can inform the design of effective climate security policy. It was attended by representatives from Finnish civil society, including organisations focusing on gender equality, conservation, and humanitarian response, and by civil servants and representatives from the Finnish government. 

What is meant by ‘climate security’?

Broadly speaking, the term 'climate security’ refers to the security impacts of climate change. An FIIA policy paper has proposed a division of these impacts into three categories: direct, cascading and transition. 

  • Direct impacts refer to changes in the physical environment and their consequences for human health and critical infrastructure. An example of a direct impact is increased incidence of flooding and extreme weather events in low-lying Pacific Island nations. 
  • Cascading impacts occur when environmental changes are combined with socio-economic and geopolitical factors, often contributing to or triggering trans-national events. For example, the food security crisis in the Horn of Africa exacerbated by both drought and food insecurity resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine. 
  • Transition impacts result from the mitigation of - and adaptation to - climate change, where these are poorly planned or have unintended harmful side effects. For example, where biofuel production has replaced food crops.

As a peacebuilding organisation, Conciliation Resources’ work on climate security aims to understand the complex links and drivers between climate change and conflict, including gendered responses, and ensure peacebuilding efforts respond effectively to these. To further this understanding, we have developed and piloted a participatory Gender, Climate and Conflict Analysis methodology. We believe peacebuilding responses can be effective in responding to - and preventing - conflict in the context of climate insecurity. 

Finland has been an active proponent of women’s participation in decision-making in the security sector and published its fourth National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security in 2023. Aimed to be implemented by branches of government and civil society organisations alike, the Action Plan spells out concrete objectives and intended outcomes in various sectors from conflict prevention and peacebuilding to crisis management and securing the rights of women in conflict settings. The paper demonstrates strong commitment to the theme while making note of the rising challenges to the WPS agenda due to geopolitical tensions and ecological crises. Therefore, concrete examples of possible actions and best practices on gender issues in the security sector are ever more necessary in the Finnish context. 

Key takeaways: The relevance of gender to climate security programming and mitigation

1. Gender norms affect the way in which people respond to climate change, influencing conflict dynamics.

It is well-established that gender and other identity characteristics influence how people experience the effects of climate change. Early climate security architecture captures this in reference to gendered vulnerabilities to climate change and conflict. However, roundtable participants reflected that emerging climate security policy is less clear on how gender norms affect the way people adapt to climate change and influence conflict dynamics. For example, women in Fiji play a critical role in adapting and responding to climate change. Social expectations of Fijian women that they should play a caring role within their families and communities persists in times of climate-related disaster and extreme weather events. Women therefore often take on key roles in community-level responses, and try to continue to provide shelter, food and care for their families and community members. This is critical to the management and reduction of disaster-related community tensions.

2. Women have distinct skills and experience in climate change adaptation, but existing social norms often result in their exclusion from decision-making in this area.

Conciliation Resources shared insights from a recent workshop in Nigeria where it was found that women often demonstrate greater adaptability to climate change than men, in part because they are excluded from the options available to men. For example, women farmers have manufactured their own manure as a fertiliser to support crop growth in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, whereas male farmers more typically used harmful pesticides - which women cannot access - to maintain yields. As such, women are developing their knowledge of alternatives with better ecological outcomes than men. However, social norms around community-level decision making - meaning decisions are often taken by men in traditional leadership positions - result in women’s exclusion from community-level climate change adaptation plans. This creates the risk that local-level adaptations exclude women’s insight and are less effective, leading to social tensions as crop yields worsen and food insecurity grows.

3. Mitigating the direct impacts of climate change is part and parcel of the work of many governments and civil society actors, but work to understand and mitigate transition and cascading impacts is less apparent.

Participants from Finnish NGOs and INGOs reflected that mitigating the direct impacts of climate change - as set out within FIIA’s impact categorisation - is often among their core work. This is particularly the case for agencies with a humanitarian mandate. But they reflected that complex cascading and transition impacts - and the gendered dimensions of these - need additional focus, and new levels of strategic commitment, action planning and financing.

4. Policy makers’ prioritisation of WPS and climate is at risk.

With violent conflict increasing around the world, including in Europe, there is a shift towards a ‘hard security’ mindset and the prioritisation of defence, deterrence, and other areas of security policy. Additionally, the WPS agenda and efforts to promote gender equality are being undermined by a global anti-gender movement which has successfully mobilised people against women’s rights issues. Participants reflected that they are facing an ongoing challenge to secure space for gender and climate security on normative agendas - which raises the risk that these intersecting challenges will not be dealt with effectively. 

What next: Lessons for policy makers on gender, climate security and WPS

1. Centre women’s knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and the knowledge of marginalised groups in the development of climate security policy.

The promotion of women and girls’ agency is the core mandate of some of the civil society actors at the roundtable. They noted that civil society should work closely with donors and governments to carry out inclusive consultation processes to inform the design and delivery of climate security policy and programming, centring the knowledge and insights of women and indigenous populations. The opportunity should also be taken to advance disability inclusion. This would clearly align with WPS agenda objectives to enhance diverse groups of women’s meaningful participation. 

2. Engage men and address the issue of masculinities.

Participants reflected on the importance of engaging men in work on gender and climate security. One participant indicated that climate mitigation measures in countries across the world tend to focus on industries which remain male-dominated - such as oil and gas - meaning that, with insufficient engagement, male leaders in these fields can act as powerful ‘spoilers’ to progress. This is mirrored at national and local levels, where men continue to dominate decision-making on climate adaptation; for example, Conciliation Resources’ research has highlighted ‘muscular’, oppositional approaches to water diplomacy led by male negotiating parties. This excludes the participation of women who often demonstrate greater adaptability. Therefore, policy makers must ensure that they consider means of engaging men in the development of gender-responsive climate security policy, taking this opportunity to address gender norms and power dynamics which influence climate response and peacebuilding.

3. Embrace complexity in rhetorical and strategic commitments - but articulate clear actions for implementation.

The inter-linkages between gender and climate security, while increasingly well-evidenced, are hard to articulate simply and succinctly. One participant shared that this is a particular challenge when briefing senior leaders and politicians with clear talking points and calls to action on this matter - meaning it often slips down the priority list. Another noted that work on climate security is often siloed between different departments, with little overlap. It is important to embrace complexity and not to over-simplify the intersection between gender, climate and conflict to arrive at compelling sound bites. Instead, policy makers should find clarity through the development of clear action plans and commitments in the development of policies pertaining to climate security, so that the complex and gendered impacts of climate change can be tackled.

4. Framing is important: highlight the relevance of climate security and gender to other priorities.

To ensure climate security and gender is prioritised, the relevance of this topic to priorities like hard security must be articulated. For example, we know that the security of a country is directly correlated with the status of its women, and that understanding gender norms can help peacebuilders to effectively transform the gendered drivers of conflict and mitigate more effectively against climate risks. So, policy makers could seek to ensure that hard security discourse includes a gender and WPS focus to avoid the risk that it negates or oversimplifies these issues.


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This article was co-written by Dr. Emma Hakala (Leading Researcher, Finnish Institute of International Affairs) and Esther Hodges (Senior Gender Adviser, Conciliation Resources).