07 July 2017

What does President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement have to do with SRHR?

At first glance, it may be hard to see a direct link between climate change and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). One may wonder what the warming of the earth has to do with access to contraception, a women’s right to choose whether to sustain a pregnancy, and sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).

Perhaps the clearest link is between the ongoing growth in population and the strain on our natural resources. More people than ever before are roaming the earth while at the same time essential resources such as clean water, air and food are more and more scarce. Many women in developing countries have to travel farther to collect water and fire wood, making them more vulnerable to acts of violence and rape. Climate change can also lead to migration and an increase in displaced populations, which in turn can result in a higher number of SGBV victims and reduced access to needed family planning services. These are just some examples of linkages between climate change and SRHR issues.

The connection between climate change and SRHR is also seen at the political support and advocacy level. Those who are supportive of SRHR issues often have a lot in common with those who are environmental activists – we have loud voices, passionate hearts and strong values. As such, when the current U.S. Administration revived and expanded the Global Gag Rule, civil society, governments, foundations and countless of individuals made their voices heard loud and clear through movements such as She Decides, protest marches, and declarations of support for SRHR. 

When President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, the world again sighed in disbelief and disappointment. With his decision to withdraw, President Trump placed the United States with Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries that do not support the Paris Agreement. The reaction to this blow to the climate change community has been inspiring. Executives from large U.S. companies such as Google, Tesla, General Electric, Exxon, Microsoft, and Apple heavily criticized President Trump’s decision and confirmed they will continue to support the fight against climate change. China, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico and many other governments issued statements reaffirming their commitment to the Paris Agreement. Even local U.S. government officials responded strongly, with the mayors (“climate mayors”) of hundreds of American cities – big and small - pledging support for the Paris agreement. 

The way civil society, private sector, NGOs and governments are not only filling gaps left by policy decisions made by one national administration but are also publicly and loudly combating such national policy decisions shows that we live in an interconnected global community that is ready to fight together to uphold our human rights – whether that is the right to breath clean air or the right to choose whether and when to have children. With that, there is hope for us all.