The Climate Alarm Is Ringing – It’s Time to Stop Silencing It

Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Crime & Justice, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations


Credit: Last Generation Germany

LONDON, Apr 12 2024 (IPS) – The heat records keep tumbling – 2023 was the hottest year in recorded history. Extreme weather events keep mounting up. And yet the voices most strongly calling for action to prevent climate catastrophe are increasingly being silenced.

It’s a sad fact that climate campaigners in the global south – in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America – have long faced repression. People have been subjected to incarceration and violence all the way up to murder for resisting climate-harming extractive projects and environmental destruction. In comparison, climate activists in global north countries – including Europe and North America – for a long time enjoyed relative freedom, which they used to protest against their governments and the corporations headquartered in their countries that bear most of the responsibility for causing global warming.

But they no longer enjoy the full freedom to do so. As the latest State of Civil Society Report from global civil society alliance CIVICUS shows, several global north governments are increasingly making it harder for people to take part in climate protests. They’re using anti-protest laws, raids, arrests, jail sentences and violence to try to subdue voices calling for urgent action.

When it comes to the climate, delay is denial, because if action isn’t taken fast, it may be too late. This means the repression of activists demanding immediate action must be seen as a form of climate denial.

Examples are piling up. In Germany last year, authorities used laws intended to combat organised crime to raid the homes of young activists from the Last Generation climate movement, seize their laptops and freeze their bank accounts. The German police also used violence against activists trying to block a coalmine expansion. The imposition of restrictions on climate activism is one the key reasons the CIVICUS Monitor recently downgraded Germany’s civic space rating.

In Italy too, the government has served climate campaigners with criminal conspiracy indictments historically used against the mafia, and it has also introduced a law to criminalise non-violent action at key sites. The Dutch authorities have responded with mass arrests to roadblock protests demanding it fulfil its promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, which amount to around US$39.9 billion a year. Thousands have been detained and the police have used water cannon against protesters.

The UK government has passed a package of laws that criminalise disruptive and noisy protests, clearly targeted at the non-violent direct action used by climate campaigners. In January, the UN Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders, Michel Forst, condemned these new laws. Numerous climate activists have been jailed for peaceful protest actions that until recently would never have received a prison sentence. Meanwhile the UK government plans to grant over 100 new oil and gas licences. Several Australian states have also passed anti-protest laws that have been used to jail climate activists.

Global north states, apparently eager to do the bidding of the fossil fuel giants, can be expected to intensify this repression as the gap between the action needed and the lack of effort being taken becomes increasingly clear. They silence civil society because activists expose the hypocrisy behind the greenwash. As right-wing populists and nationalists who oppose climate action – and often spread climate disinformation – gain influence across the global north, climate activists can expect an even greater wave of vilification.

The impacts of repression are personal. They increase the costs and dangers of activism in an attempt to deter people from getting involved and sap collective energies. However, in response, campaigners are showing resilience. In Germany, frozen funds were quickly replaced with crowdsourced donations. In the Netherlands, attempts to repress roadblocks motivated more people to turn up to protest.

But the opportunity cost is steep. Energy that should be invested in advancing creative climate solutions is instead being spent in fending off restrictions. In the long-term, there’s a danger of attrition, depleting the ranks of climate activists. And without civil society, who will push to keep the climate crisis high on the political agenda?

Civil society has shown it can make a difference. While there was much to be unhappy about with the last global climate summit, COP28, the fact that for the first time states acknowledged the need to transition away from fossil fuel use came as a direct result of civil society’s decades-long advocacy. More institutions are committing to divest from fossil fuel investments due to campaigning pressure: 72 per cent of UK universities have now done so, because student activists demanded it.

And the growing field of climate litigation keeps paying off. A group of Swiss women just won a ruling at the European Court of Human Rights, which found that their government has violated their human rights by not doing enough to tackle climate change, a verdict that sets a strong precedent. Last year, courts in Belgium and Germany insisted on stronger actions to cut emissions following lawsuits brought by campaigners. More are sure to follow.

Civil society will strive to keep working on every front possible, through protest, advocacy and litigation, because the scale of the climate crisis demands a full spectrum of responses. States should stop trying to hold back the tide and put themselves on the right side of history. They must respect the right of everyone to protest and stop the denial they practise through repression.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


IPCI 2024: Oslo Commitment Protects Sexual and Reproductive Rights Across All Contexts

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Violence, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Women in Politics


Ase Kristin Ask Bakke, MP and Chair of APPG Norway, reads the Oslo Statement of Commitment. Alando Terrelonge, MP, Jamaica, chair of the IPCI Drafting Committee, sits second from left. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

Ase Kristin Ask Bakke, MP and Chair of APPG Norway, reads the Oslo Statement of Commitment. Alando Terrelonge, MP, Jamaica, chair of the IPCI Drafting Committee, sits second from left. Credit: Naureen Hossain/IPS

OSLO, Apr 12 2024 (IPS) – Parliamentarians from 112 countries have adopted the IPCI statement of commitment to protect and promote sexual and reproductive health rights, committing to the principle that “life or death is a political statement.”

As IPCI Oslo drew to a close on Friday, April 12, 2024, parliamentarians adopted a new Statement of Commitment that was “the collective effort of every single delegate,” said Alando Terrelonge, MP from Jamaica and chair of the drafting committee.

Remarking on the drafting process, he remarked, “We have definitely placed people’s rights and their dignity, the whole essence of human rights, at the forefront of our discussion.”

“Human rights really are at the heart of human civilization and sustainable development.”

Terrelonge, along with Ase Kristin Ask Bakke, MP and chair of APPG Norway, presented the statement before the conference in its penultimate session.

In brief, the Oslo Statement calls for parliamentarians to advocate for and promote SRHR across the life course, from birth to old age. It addresses the “rising polarization, conflicts, and fragile environments” that threaten the achievements made in the realization of IPCD’s Programme of Action by mobilizing their efforts and cooperating with relevant stakeholders.

It calls for increased accountability towards governments, the tech and healthcare sectors, and other relevant stakeholders, to respect human rights law. The statement makes a specific note to protect women, adolescents, and other vulnerable, marginalized groups who suffer disproportionately in conflicts and crises.

This statement seems pertinent in the wake of prolonged conflicts in Gaza, South Sudan, and Ukraine. In this light and in a broader context, the statement reaffirms a commitment to uphold international human rights law and humanitarian law in all contexts.

The statement reaffirms and expands on the core issues of the conference: policy and megatrends in demography, technology, and financing.

Technology’s impact on SRHR and political practices was officially codified in the statement, as it calls for governments to recognize the impact of digital technology on people’s lives, and the “immense potential” for the “full realization of the ICPD [Programme of Action].”

It also cautions that governments promote the safe and meaningful participation of women and girls in the digital space.

Financing SRHR programs has also been recognized as a priority, along with urging governments to allocate 10 percent of national development budgets towards the implementation of the Cairo program of action (POA). Furthermore, the statement advocates for following another UN-codified program, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, for its framework on long-term investments in development projects.

The participants had also agreed to increase political commitment to the continued implementation of the IPCD POA on parliamentary action for accountability and political commitment. The parliamentarians present pledged to accelerate developments and promote laws that respect international human rights obligations.

All those present enthusiastically applauded the statement’s adoption by consensus. As the conference reached its end and the statement was formally pledged, attendees expressed their support and its relevance to their states.

A delegate from Guatemala noted that while there were several pieces of legislation aimed at SRHR, they were not implemented clearly enough for civilians to know that these laws existed. She added that it was important to bridge the gap between governments and civilians in their understanding and implementation of SRHR policies.

The MP from Peru said parliamentarians needed to return to hold their governments accountable for the setbacks in the SRHR. She added that there needed to be investigations into the factors driving conservative groups to push back against the expansion of SRHR.

A MP from the Mauritiana delegation noted the progress that is achieved through pursuing gender equality: “Any society that does not give a space for women is a society that will suffer, socially and politically.”


China, India & Sri Lanka Embroiled in the Geo-Politics of the Indian Ocean

Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations


The writer is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN and, until recently, Ambassador to China

Credit: United Nations

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Apr 10 2024 (IPS) – Unfortunately, a rivalry that should not exist and did not exist historically between China and India is being stoked by the media and some policy makers, especially in the West. It is not too difficult to discern the Machiavellian geo-strategic objectives of this complex game plan.

Most policymakers in the West find it difficult to accept that a non-European and non-white Asian nation which the West has been used to exploit and treat with disdain has risen so rapidly that it is now in a position to offer an alternative social, economic and political model to development and progress.

China has not only risen from the depths but is challenging the West in many respects, including economically, technologically, socially and even militarily. The China led the Belt and Road Initiative, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Global Development Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS Bank, etc, have posed a real challenge to the established world economic order dominated by the West.

The BRI has resulted in the investment of over USD one trillion in the countries of the region and beyond making a tangible contribution to the development of many countries and has pricked the hitherto somnolent West also to participate positively in the development of those countries.

The calculated statements of EA Minister of India, Jaishankar, while emphasising India’s obvious strategic interests, have not overly endorsed the Western approach to China. China has attracted many admirers.

China has risen in a very short period to the position of an economic super power and to become the second largest economy in the world. It is expected to overtake the US economically by the end of this decade. It is also the main source foreign investments in the world, not to mention tourists.

It is also the biggest source in the global supply chain and the most lucrative multi billion dollar consumer market. All this is causing serious discomfort to those countries in the West, giving rise to damaging efforts at delinking, which were so used to dominating the world unchallenged. China’s technological advancement is nothing short of spectacular.

There could even be racist undertones to the criticisms being directed at China, a poor Asian country formerly dominated and exploited willy nilly by the West and to the reluctance to accept its new status and its own model of development. (One recalls that in the 1980s, a resurgent Japan experienced a similar process of vicious containment resulting in twenty years of stagflation).

China, for its part, has not articulated any desire to dominate or influence its economic partners and others or impose its political and economic model on anyone else. On the contrary, it has consistently expressed a desire to achieve a common future and a goal of shared prosperity, without domination. To judge Chinese intentions through the prism of the West’s own historical experience is patently wrong.

Both India and China are over dependent on Indian Ocean sea routes for the transport of their energy needs. While both would want to ensure the safety and security of Indian Ocean sea routes, both should also take adequate measures to prevent competition from blowing into confrontations of unmanageable proportions.

China has never expressed interest in establishing bases in the Indian Ocean region or acquiring territory. Its only military base in the region is in Djibouti established as part of a multinational effort to counter pirates.

The West which has been dominating the region since 1500 AD tends ascribe similar motives to China against the background of its own past record. (The situation with regard to Hambantota which has crept in the West’s narrative requres a longer explanation).

Sri Lanka’s initiative in the 1970s to establish an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace, although designed to contain the then prevalent super power rivalry in the Indian Ocean, may become relevant again in the contemporary context.

The situation in the Maldives should NOT be viewed purely from the Western lens and characterised as a simple case of China – India rivalry for regional influence. The domestic Islamic political imperatives and the resulting political pressures on the Maldivian leadership are important factors.

It is a fact that Chinese companies have been proactive in developing infrastructure in Maldives for sometime and their work is of good quality. India’s official reaction to the Maldivian measures has been measured. China has signed a number of bilateral agreements with the Maldives and Maldives readily agreed to accept a ship visit from a Chinese research vessel which was denied access to Sri Lankan ports due to Indian pressure.

Some critics argue that Chinese investments in Sri Lanka are part of a larger geopolitical strategy by China to expand its influence in the region.

This assertion needs to be stripped of its polemical outer layer to appreciate its essential shallowness. To begin with, it is mainly raised by commentators from countries which had rapaciously exploited vast swathes of the non white world through conquest and colonialism for centuries and continuing economic domination, conveniently ignoring their ongoing depradations.

Sri Lanka, which desperately needs development funding, has welcomed the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the highest levels. It has not sought to exclude anyone else from participating in our development process. We have steadfastly asserted our non-aligned status and our neutrality.

In fact, our President has characterized the AUKUS alliance, which is designed to contain China, as a mistake. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister visited China this week and was received at the highest levels.

China has already invested around USD one trillion in the countries that joined the BRI, and more is forthcoming. Sri Lanka needs to develop fast and has no option but to welcome investment funding from all sources.

As a sovereign and independent state, Sri Lanka must be free to select its own development partners and its own development model. In the process, it has not sought to exclude anyone nor posed a threat to anyone, directly or indirectly. Sri Lanka has welcomed all friendly countries to participate in its development process.

I would not characterise Sri Lanka’s approach to development as a balancing act. It is not. Sri Lanka must work with all countries to achieve its own development objectives which should not be held hostage to the unfounded sensitivities of any other party.

Dr Palitha Kohona is also a former Sri Lanka Foreign Secretary, Head of the UN Treaty Section, chairman, UN Indian Ocean Committee and Chairman of the UN’s Sixth Committee.

IPS UN Bureau


Civil Registration is Shaping World’s Largest Election Year With 76 Nations Going to the Polls

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Democracy, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations


A smiling Timorese casts his vote at the Second National Village Council (sucos) elections while an election worker looks on. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

BANGKOK, Thailand, Apr 5 2024 (IPS) – Over four billion people will take to the polls in 2024 as 76 countries are set to hold elections. In Asia, this includes populous countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia.

These elections range from the world’s largest multi-day legislative election in India, to Indonesia, where the biggest single-day vote took place for the presidential poll in February. These elections will have lasting impacts for many years to come.

In order to vote, eligible citizens need to be included in voter lists. Accurate and credible voter registration is important to ensure trust in the electoral process. Voter lists represent consolidated, official lists of all persons eligible to vote.

But they are often costly and complicated endeavors. This is where civil registration and identity management is an integral structural support for voter registration. A strong Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system not only secures an individual’s legal identity and the resulting human rights, but also supports the collection of voter information, reinforcing the national voter list integrity by linking it with the civil register.

All voter registration systems are broadly categorized as “active” or “passive”. In countries employing ‘active’ systems, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the individual to update their information which ensures their eligibility to vote. This in turn means that many eligible voters may never be included in the voter list.

The ‘passive’ system, on the other hand, is when voter lists are generated from existing databases such as civil or population registers. Globally, a total of 69 countries (40 per cent) extract data from a civil or population register for their national voter list.

While there is no definitive standard for how voter lists should be produced, countries with a robust and universal CRVS system stand to gain numerous benefits. For the voter, it reduces the burden of having a separate and potentially cumbersome process. For example, consider a woman who marries and subsequently changes her name and residence.

This affects which electoral district or subdivision she belongs to. A well-functioning population register which collects up-to-date information on the occurrence of vital events would facilitate the automatic update of the voter list, ensuring her inclusion in future elections.

Governments also benefit from voter lists established based on civil registers. It has the potential to incur significant savings in financial and human resources needed to compile an independent voter list, and also helps prevent inflated voter numbers as people are automatically removed upon their death.

Traditionally, in countries lacking a robust CRVS system, the electoral management body produces its own voter list, which also has some potential benefits. People who do not own legal identity documents may be included through community identification i.e. on the testimony of village chiefs or teachers.

The choice of voter registration system requires a careful balance between inclusion and accuracy, as well as consideration for the country context. However, robust CRVS/ID systems can contribute to the efficiency, inclusiveness, and accuracy of voter lists.

In the Asia-Pacific region, 15 countries rely solely on data extracted from population or civil registries, while a further eight countries create voter registration lists through a combination of register data and efforts by electoral management bodies.

However, many people are unable to vote because they lack the required ID. Marginalized population groups and people in vulnerable situations often remain ‘invisible’ to their government because their existence has never been recognized through birth registration, potentially creating a barrier for participation in electoral processes. Inclusive electoral processes go hand in hand with complete and universal legal identity.

In Vanuatu, electoral and civil registration authorities joined hands to digitally transform the civil registration system with an aim to produce accurate and credible voter lists, with support from UNDP/Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project (VEEP), funded by the Government of New Zealand.

Although the initial basis for developing a comprehensive civil register based on unique identity arose from the need for accurate voter lists, the initiative has had a far-reaching impact for the overall development of the country through digital transformation.

The new Integrated Identity Management System in Vanuatu is supported by legal reforms to digitally transform civil registration in Vanuatu and is becoming the digital backbone of the Government, as well as the private sector.

Multiple government departments and other partners such as Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities, are working together on a campaign ‘Disability bai no limitim’ to increase the registration of persons with disabilities, ensuring that they have a national identity card and thus facilitating their right to vote.

The collaborative efforts to improve CRVS goes beyond Vanuatu, as exemplified by the Brisbane Accord Group and the Asia Pacific CRVS Partnership. ESCAP and UNDP are working with partners to support governments in achieving the shared regional vision of universal and responsive CRVS systems that facilitate the realization of their rights, support good governance, health and development.

Chloe Harvey is Associate Population Affairs Officer, Statistics Division, ESCAP; Tanja Sejersen is Statistician, ESCAP; Risa Arai is Programme Specialist (Legal Identity), Governance, BPPS, UNDP and Anne-Sofie Gehard is Chief Technical Adviser & Project Manager, Vanuatu Electoral Environment Project (VEEP), UNDP.

IPS UN Bureau


India’s Farmers Could Use Better Monsoon Forecasts

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Headlines, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Food and Agriculture

Monsoon rains in Tamil Nadu, Chennai, India. Credit: Ganesh Partheeban/Unsplash

Monsoon rains in Tamil Nadu, Chennai, India. Credit: Ganesh Partheeban/Unsplash

NEW DELHI , Apr 3 2024 (IPS) – Agriculture in India need not ‘gamble’ with the monsoons if accurate weather and climate forecasts are proactively made available to farmers, according to the results of a new experimental study conducted by the University of Chicago.

Approximately 70–90 percent of total annual rainfall across most of India, a major agricultural producer, occurs during the June to September monsoon, which varies widely in onset timing and quantity, making predictions difficult for farmers, says the study published February 26, 2024, as a non-peer-reviewed working paper.

While the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has advanced monsoon forecasting systems, researchers from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago found that farmers in southern Telengana state, where the study was conducted, tended not to rely on IMD or other forecasts.

“For whatever reason, few of the farmers we talked with in Telengana were using a forecast about the timing of the local start of the monsoon to help guide their planting decisions,” says Amir Jina, senior fellow at the Energy Policy Institute, University of Chicago and author of the study.

While Indian farmers have traditionally depended on official forecasts issued by the IMD, first established in 1875, the Chicago team relied on forecast data generated by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

“The PIK model produces a probability distribution of potential onset dates, which can be summarized as a likely onset date range, making it easy for farmers to understand,” the study said.

“This particular study looks at a new approach to forecasting the onset of the Indian Summer Monsoon over southern India’s Telangana region that can predict the arrival of the monsoon across India four to six weeks in advance,” says Fiona Burlig, coauthor of the study and assistant professor at the Energy Policy Institute, University of Chicago.

PIK, under a climate capacity programme that covers East Africa, Peru, and India, focuses on staple crops in India, makes use of semi-empirical modeling frameworks, and combines them with satellite remote sensing earth observation data.

In the experimental study, PIK forecasts enabled farmers to make early decisions about key inputs such as the type of crops, labour supply, and fertilizer purchases, significantly improving profitability. “PIK forecasts were especially accurate over Telangana State, the site of our experiment,” says Burlig.

Burlig and her team studied how farmers across 250 villages in Telangana changed their planting strategies once they were convinced of the high accuracy of the monsoon forecasts. An early monsoon typically means a longer growing season, suited to cash crops like cotton, while later monsoons would help farmers decide to grow lower-value subsistence crops like paddy, the researchers said.

“This is measured proof for IMD how important the work of forecasting is for farmers in India and can help thinking about how to measure even more benefits of other types of forecasts from the IMD that the farmers use. All the progress IMD makes should be validated and encouraged by this basic fact,” Jina tells SciDev.Net.

“Farmers find that climate change is increasingly making predictions of the monsoon’s arrival and other weather patterns difficult,” says Burlig. “Our study, which was conducted in an area of low agricultural productivity, demonstrated how the new forecasts were able to deliver accurate monsoon predictions even in a changing climate.”

Because climate change increases weather variability, farmers are reluctant to take risks and typically tend to underinvest for the season ahead, Burlig said. A pre-season survey by the team in Telangana found wide variations in farmers’ estimations of when the monsoon would arrive.

The study experimentally evaluated monsoon onset forecasts in 250 villages, which were divided into a control group, a forecast group that received information well in advance of monsoon onset and a benchmark index insurance group.

Agricultural insurance lowers farmers’ risk exposure but does not improve their information, the study says. Overall, farmers who received insurance increased the land they cultivated and their investments in seeds, fertilizer, and other inputs by 12 percent compared to those who did not receive forecast information.

“The findings of the experimental study are well within what is expected,” said Arun Shanker, principal scientist at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad. Studies like these, he said, are important because resilience to climate change will depend greatly on increasing agricultural productivity with available water resources.

However, Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, says the University of Chicago’s study is “severely outdated” as it is based on a pre-2016 prediction model. “Since then, IMD has moved to the dynamic, advanced, ‘Climate Forecast System’ that provides both regional and pan-India forecasts at a high resolution.”

“The Potsdam model and forecasts are not based on a full-fledged, dynamic system like the IMD climate forecast system and have limited application,” Koll, a lead author of the IPCC reports and former chair of the Indian Ocean Region Panel, tells SciDev.Net.

Soma Sen Roy, scientist at the IMD and India representative at the World Meteorological Organization, said the IMD issues forecasts at all time scales—nowcasting, medium range, extended range, seasonal, and long-range forecasting throughout the year.  “These forecasts are not specifically linked to the monsoons, for which special forecasts are issued.”

Said Jina, “Our research underscores that all the investments and improvements the IMD has made in recent years, and continues to make, are useful and important for farmers.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


WHO Calls for More Data on Violence Against Older Women and Women With Disabilities

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Inequality, Population, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health

Gender Violence

Older women and women with disabilities are underrepresented in global data on violence against women. Credit: WHO/Kiana Hayeri

Older women and women with disabilities are underrepresented in global data on violence against women. Credit: WHO/Kiana Hayeri

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 29 2024 (IPS) – Older women and women with disabilities experience abuse that is unique to their demographics, yet they are underrepresented in national and global databases, according to findings shared by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On Wednesday, WHO and UN-Women released two new briefs, the first in a series that will discuss neglected forms of violence, including gender-based violence. The two briefs, titled Measuring violence against older women and Measuring violence against women with disability, investigate the types of violence that these groups face through the data available. Through reviewing existing studies into violence against women, the research team was able to synthesize the information available on this topic and its scope across different countries.

As was noted by Dr. Lynnmarie Sardinha, Technical Officer at WHO and the UN Special Programme on Human Reproduction (HRP) for Violence against Women Data and Measurement, and author of the briefs. The limited data on older women and women with disabilities undermines the ability of programmes to meet their needs. “Understanding how diverse women and girls are differently affected, and if and how they are accessing services, is critical to ending violence in all its forms.”

One in three women is affected by gender-based violence in these forms. For older women—aged 60 years and over—and women with disabilities, they are also subjected to other forms of abuse and neglect, usually at the hands of caregivers, family members, or healthcare institutions such as nursing homes. Examples of this include controlling behaviors such as withholding medicine and assistive devices, and financial abuse. Though these forms of neglect and abuse have been observed, the studies that the briefs reviewed seemed to focus more on intimate partner violence through physical and sexual abuse. The briefs acknowledge, however, that violence against women should not only be exemplified by intimate partner violence. The prevalence of this example hints at further nuances that are not sufficiently captured in the studies due to their limitations.

Violence against older women can manifest in other ways as they and their partners/perpetrators age. Although women aged 15–49 are at higher risk of intimate partner and sexual violence, older women are still likely to experience it, and this can shift towards other forms of abuse, such as neglect, economic abuse, and psychological abuse. The brief on older women reveals, however, that there is limited data to definitively state its prevalence. This is particularly the case for low- and middle-income countries; the data that was compiled for this brief comes largely from high-income countries, a gap that the reports are aware of. Older women are represented in only ten percent of the data on violence against women.

Only 6 percent of the studies reviewed for women with disabilities included measures of violence specific to this group. The lack of questions specific to this demographic indicates that they are, perhaps unconsciously, unaccounted for when measuring the scale of violence against women. Data collection procedures may not be designed to accommodate women with disabilities or prevent them from self-reporting, such as deaf or hard-of-hearing women who are unable to participate in surveys conducted through the telephone.

The briefs also suggest that women who live with lifelong disrespect and neglect may not recognize the specific forms of violence, which could account for fewer instances being reported. This could also apply to older women, where surveying and reporting mechanisms are geared towards women of reproductive age, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

This may also speak of socio-cultural attitudes towards violence against older women that are steeped in ageism, harmful stereotypes, and discriminatory cultural norms that prevent them from sharing their experiences.

The WHO briefs make several recommendations to address the evidence gaps. Among them are extending the age limit for survey participation and incorporating questions that relate to different types of violence. Data collection should also account for cultural-specific contexts of violence and abuse across different countries. Women with disabilities should be consulted in research at every stage when designing surveys targeted at them, which will allow for a broader spectrum of disabilities to be accounted for.

Read the briefs on women with disability and older women.

IPS UN Bureau Report