Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on Draft General Recommendation No. 35 on the Gender-­‐related Dimensions of Disaster Risk Reduction in a Changing Climate

This submission by Dr Gabrielle Simm and Dr Sarah Williams follows the general order of issues raised in the draft General Recommendation. It also raises issues not included in the draft General Recommendation.

I. Introduction and II. Objective and Scope

Scope and definitions ‘Disaster’

The scope of the General Recommendation should be clarified through defining and using terms consistently. The draft General Recommendation refers to ‘disasters’ as separate to climate change (para 2), ‘natural disasters’ (para 4), ‘climate change related disasters’ (para 6) and ‘situations of disaster in a changing climate’ (para 31).

The Committee should align its use of the term ‘disasters’ with that in the ILC draft articles on the protection of persons in the event of disasters. The draft articles state:

‘disaster’ means a calamitous event or series of events resulting in widespread loss of life, great human suffering and distress, mass displacement, or large –scale material or environmental damage, thereby seriously disrupting the functioning of society.1

There are two reasons why the General Recommendation should adopt the definition of a disaster set out in the ILC draft articles. First, the Commentary to the ILC draft articles notes the difficulty of isolating and proving causes of disasters and the undesirability of forcing the victims of disasters to establish their cause, particularly in the case of disasters with multiple causes. Second, even if the ILC draft articles are not adopted as a treaty, they draw on a decade-­‐ long extensive study of customary international law on which states and international organisations have had the opportunity to comment. It makes  sense for the General Recommendation to use the term ‘disaster’ consistently with its widespread usage within the UN system and by states.

For the full submission, download the PDF below.

Dr Gabrielle Simm and Dr Sarah Williams