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Gender, development and sustainability – 2017 update

Insights from research across SEI that has sought to narrow the gaps between knowledge, policy and practice on gender issues, and explore directions for the future.
Multiple Authors
Ishka Bless


Gender differences and disparities in access to and control over natural resources are well documented. Yet, in development policy and practice, gender issues are often neglected. Many interventions fail to recognize gender and social differences or offer simplistic solutions.

SEI has made it a priority to address gender and social equity across its work and to help address gaps in knowledge and policy from the local to the global scale. Through the Gender and Social Equity (GSE) Programme, SEI is funding innovative research on gender and equity in environment and development, while working to integrate these issues in SEI’s research, policy outreach and capacity-building efforts. Our goal is to help establish a strong shared vision that is gender- and socially inclusive, and bring that vision to bear through our partnerships, networks and alliances.

This synthesis brief, updated for 2017, presents the latest insights from SEI research, through the GSE Programme and beyond, that has sought to narrow the gaps between knowledge, policy and practice on gender issues. We also describe some of our major activities to support this work and explore directions for the future. The brief builds on the 2014 brief by the same name with updated information and insights.

Key insights

The synthesis of SEI research activities reveals four key insights:

  1. Despite new opportunities for participation and gender mainstreaming, unequal power relations and persistent stereotypes continue to exclude and disadvantage women. ​​

  2. Gender inequality intersects with other forms of inequality on multiple scales, and climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives need to address it accordingly.

  3. Women’s contributions to the economy are frequently overlooked, but recognizing women’s role in building a “green economy” could yield large benefits.

  4. Significant data gaps make it difficult to address gender issues in natural resource management. Decision-makers need better gender-related and disaggregated data, and technical models need to incorporate gender and equity considerations.

New research and future pathways

Gender and social equity research, including in the contexts of development and sustainability, is a growing field at SEI and beyond. This brief uses the synthesis of research findings to arrive at new and emerging areas of inquiry that are expected to be pursued at SEI in the coming years, specifically:

  • Gender professionals in environment and development
  • Climate finance and gender and social equity
  • Gender, disasters and displacement
  • Gender and transboundary large-scale development projects

You can read more about these new research areas, as well as the completed and ongoing work of SEI in this field, in the attached SEI research synthesis brief (see the Featured Download in the right-hand column of this page).

Suggested citation:

Biskupska, N., Aung, M. T., Resurrección, B. P. and Davis, M. (2017). Gender, development and sustainability – 2017 update. SEI Research Synthesis Brief. Stockholm.

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