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Gender Equality in Public Governance of the Arctic

Conference contribution
Authors Eva-Maria Svensson
Published in Gender Equality in the Arctic - conference. Akureyri, Island, 30-31 Oktober 2014.
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Law
Language en
Keywords Gender equality, the Arctic, public governance
Subject categories Law, Other Social Sciences


Gender equality has so far not been a highly topical issue for public governance bodies in the Arctic, despite it being reasonable to expect public bodies to strive for. It is also reasonable to expect the bodies to use gender-mainstreaming as a method in all its activities, until the objective is reached. It is reasonable to expect them to do so, due to extensive obligations for and commitments by States to take all appropriate measures to achieve gender equality. Gender equality is defined as a fundamental value and as an objective in law and policies all over the world. The main international document is the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), legally binding for State Parties (i.e. States having ratified the Convention). With the exception of the US, all the Arctic states have ratified the convention, as well as the extensive implementation obligations spelled out in the Beijing Platform for Action. More over, almost all these countries have implemented domestic governance structures with the aim to promote equality between women and men. Gender equality is moreover defined through certain indicators, used when measuring gender equality, in indexes such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. Gender equality is defined in many other contexts as well, but in policy and legal it is defined as a relationship between men and women concerning rights, responsibilities and opportunities in all aspects of life. Taking this as a starting-point, the objective of gender equality is not achieved in the Arctic region. In fact gender equality is not achieved in any part of the world, but the situation in a State compared to other can be better or worse. The eight Arctic circumpolar countries are all among the richest and most prosperous in the world. However, high levels of human development do not necessarily guarantee high levels of gender equality. Observations made by the Committee connected to CEDAW based on State Parties country reports, shows a gender unequal situation in all of the Arctic States, and more in some of them. If the Arctic and northern regions of these countries were evaluated and ranked separately from the rest of the regions in each country, there is no doubt that those human development and gender equality rankings would be quite different. It is clear that indigenous peoples’ levels of human development are far lower than their country averages, and what is more that indigenous women suffer from both formal and substantial inequality and discrimination more than non-indigenous women do. Problems of migration, mobility, gendered violence, and political representation have been identified as problems of gender inequality (Arctic Human Development Report, Williamson et al., 2004). New research on these and other problems, such as the effects of cross-border marriages, intergenerational demographic changes, trafficking, diverse patterns of indigenous recognition and self-determination, and economic issues, has more recently been identified and is currently being conducted by some research network (e.g. TUAQ). In this presentation I will reflect on if and how public governance of the Arctic work with gender equality, in order to meet the needs and interests of all citizens and to promote equal access to resources, rights and voices.

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