Publication | U4 Helpdesk Answer

Climate change, gender and corruption


Please provide an overview of the existing literature, experiences and project examples on climate, gender and corruption. What are some of the gaps in research and practice, and what have we learned so far on how gender transformative approaches can make a difference in curbing corruption with regards to climate change mitigation and adaptation and a just energy transition?


There is limited evidence of gender transformative approaches to counter corruption in climate interventions in the public domain. This Helpdesk Answer proposes ways to consider anti-corruption in climate actions through a gender lens, based on examples from approaches in other sectors.

Disclaimer: The answer uses a binary understanding of the concept of gender (as men and women) solely because the available evidence follows this approach. There is no intention of diluting identities on the gender spectrum.


Climate action, gender equality and curbing corruption are all part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 and are strongly connected. A lack of progress on one of these goals can impede the advancement of the others (UN Global Compact n.d.). Kirya, Gichohi and Mullard (2022) add that “justice and fairness are the ties that bind gender, climate change, and corruption together”. Let’s consider these areas in connection with one another to gain a better understanding of how they affect each other.

Climate change, gender and corruption: Existing literature

Gender, corruption and climate change

Research looking at the relationship between the three areas is limited. Recently, Transparency International Secretariat’s (TI-S) Climate Governance Integrity Programme (CGIP) hosted a webinar bringing together experts to delineate interlinkages between the climate programme’s anti-corruption work and gender. Discussions from the webinar revealed that “...there is little existing work on gender, climate, and corruption … the uniqueness of the subject has been challenging in terms of how to put the broad individual topics together in one study” (TI-S 2021).

Figure 1: Illustrative interaction of gender, climate and corruption

While there is a need for deeper research in delineating the interactions between climate, gender and corruption – the benefits of advancement in one area affecting the others are well known. Often, development priorities are viewed as competitors; however, the reality is that these goals can be mutually reinforcing. Taking the example of climate change, which is a major challenge of our times – it could significantly benefit from advancements in other areas such as corruption control and gender equality (Anderson 2021; Tandon 2020).

Zooming in on corruption: it undermines human development, and curbing it (SDG 16.5) is crucial to the achievement of all 17 SDGs, including achieving gender equality (SDG 5) and countering climate change and its impacts (SDG 13) (UNDP 2020; Transparency International 2019).

When it comes to gender in considering climate actions and corruption, Kirya, Gichohi and Mullard (2022) state that “a gender-blind approach that ignores diversity and inclusion could leave climate change adaptation and mitigation responses vulnerable to corruption, reduce the efficacy of policy, and lead to further marginalisation and harmful effects on women and other excluded groups”.

The recent submission of UNCAC Coalition’s Environmental Crime and Corruption Working Group to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment outlines the transformative actions needed in achieving the SDGs related to the environment (UNCAC Coalition 2022: 4). It states that providing a safe and empowering environment for civil society and whistleblowers, especially environmental human rights defenders and members of local communities, requires attention to gender (UNCAC Coalition 2022). Incorporating an “analysis of gender, race and marginalised groups in anti-corruption research, approaches and initiatives” aimed at climate actions and developing consequent action plans based on such findings is stated as a necessary in addressing the gender dimensions of corruption (UNCAC Coalition 2022).

In essence, (as will be further elaborated in the upcoming sections), women/vulnerable groups are disproportionally affected by climate change and corruption, corruption also exacerbates the impact of climate change/undermines efficiency of climate actions. Thus, corruption and climate change tend to have a reinforcing impact on gender inequalities, increasing the vulnerability of women to climate change.

Gender and climate change

UN Climate Change notes that “women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women”. In fact, across national contexts, climate change has a greater impact on communities at risk of discrimination (including women and girls), which often comprise of those who rely on natural resources for their livelihoods or those who have the least capacity to respond to the hazards of climate change, such as heatwaves, poor air quality, flooding, etc. (UN Climate Change 2022; Garfinkel 2021).

An assessment of 130 peer reviewed studies reveals that “that women and girls often face disproportionately high health risks from the impacts of climate change when compared to men and boys” (Dunne 2020). For instance, women face a greater risk of death in heatwaves in France, China and India and in tropical cyclones in Bangladesh and the Philippines (Dunne 2020). At a global level, women are more likely than men to be affected by food insecurity connected to climate change and are more likely to suffer from mental illness or partner violence in the wake of severe weather incidents (Dunne 2020).

A global health researcher, Dr Raman Preet says “if there is less food available, then who gets to eat more food? In a lot of cases, it’s men. That’s not new, these gender roles have been around for thousands of years” (Dunne 2020).

On the other hand, men are more likely to get “health issues associated with working outdoors” and are at “higher risk of suicide following extreme weather events” (Dunne 2020). Thus, climate actions ought to have a gender perspective to consider the needs and interests of different groups at risk in a given context.

Addressing gender inequality is crucial not just for alleviating the gendered impacts of climate change but the overall success of climate adaptation and mitigation interventions. A study from Climate Analytics found that “countries with lower levels of gender inequality usually take more action on climate change and are less vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change” (Tandon 2020).

While gender mainstreaming in climate actions has been recognised as a crucial strategy across the world, in practice, progress has been uneven and inequalities across varying contexts remain (Huyer et al. 2020: 585). Huyer et al. (2020: 572) analysed intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) in 2016, updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) as of November 2019, and national adaptation plans (NAPs) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as of 2 September 2020. In all of these programmes there was an “overemphasis” on women as “victims” of climate change and as “passive recipients” of aid (Huyer et al 2020: 585). Current gender mainstreaming strategies “seem ill-equipped to bring real transformation”, and this is especially problematic as climate change is likely to amplify social inequality while threatening the achievement of the SDGs (Huyer et al. 2020: 575).

Climate and gender policy experts note that what is often missing from the gender mainstreaming strategies in climate actions is leveraging “women’s knowledge, capacity, and agency to adapt, mitigate, and respond to climate change” (Huyer et al. 2020: 585). Nevertheless, there is some progress in this direction. For instance, the UNFCC Gender Action Plan (2017), considers gender in all aspects of climate policy. Odera and Mulusa (2020: 113) highlight the importance of including a gender perspective in critical areas of climate actions such as “mitigation, adaptation, technological transfer, financing, monitoring and reporting”.

Moreover, a “complex inequalities” approach, where variations of women’s and men’s climate vulnerabilities are considered in an intersectional framework that considers other factors that put groups at risk (such as ethnicity, religion, class and age) is also required for impactful and sustainable change (Kuhn 2020; Huyer et al. 2021: 281; Huyer et al. 2020: 585). Thus, intersectional gender analysis ought to inform the subject matter of climate policy, as well as its implementation (Huyer et al. 2021: 281).

Climate change and corruption

Climate change presents a “major threat to our long-term survival and hits the world’s poorest and most at-risk communities first and hardest” including women and girls (Schran 2021).

Corruption can obstruct the success of climate actions at all levels, from climate policy development to the implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation projects (U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre n.d. a). An analysis of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) in correlation with the ND-GAIN indexcbd8874c39ff scores shows that countries most susceptible to the effects of climate change face high levels of corruption (Schran 2021). Moreover, the riskiest contexts in the world, concerning corruption, are also the main beneficiaries of climate finance, receiving 41.9% of all climate related overseas development assistance (Nest, Mullard and Wathne 2020: 3).

Corruption in climate finance thus undermines the impacts of climate change interventions while putting added pressures on vulnerable contexts’ preparedness and adaptation strategies (Nest, Mullard and Wathne 2020: 5). For example, corruption is known to “severely impact” the implementation of climate actions in Bangladesh, which is “one of the world's most climate-vulnerable countries” (Khan et al. 2020: 4). A study of 38 climate projects in the country established that approximately 35% of climate project funds are embezzled (Haque et al. 2012 and 2013; Mohiuddin et al. 2017; Sharmin et al. 2017; Masum and Khan 2020).

Corruption in the form of unequal lobbying power, revolving doors and conflicts of interest can negatively affect decision-making in climate policies. For instance, state capture by dominant fossil fuel based energy companies can impede the advancement of climate-friendly energy sources (Anderson 2021).

Corruption hinders environmental protection, which is necessary for climate mitigation and adaptation, and can affect “all the actors involved in safeguarding the environment”, including but not limited to Indigenous and local communities, forest rangers, customs officials and permit-issuing officers, and prosecutors of environmental crimes (UNCAC Coalition 2022: 2).

Nest, Mullard and Wathne (2020) note that assessments of success and failure in climate interventions rarely consider corruption. This results in “insufficient mapping of corruption risks, as well as undeveloped, untested and poorly evaluated anti-corruption tools”.

Corruption and gender

People of all genders are harmed by corruption in diverse ways (UNODC 2020: 42). However, corruption is known to have a larger negative impact on women than on men6d7d4580b199 (UNODC 2020: 42). This is because “systemic discrimination against women produces social dynamics that generate power imbalances and facilitate corruption, including gendered forms of corruption” (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 22).

Such structural inequalities and discrimination-fuelled power dynamics obstruct women’s equitable access to essential services such as health care, education, and water and sanitation (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 24). This is important because, in several cultural contexts, women are the primary caregivers for children and the elderly and, therefore, they tend to interact more with health and education facilities than men – increasing their chances of encountering corruption in service delivery (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 24).

Corruption is a detriment to economic growth and development, causes poverty and contributes to exacerbating social and gender disparities. This in turn acts as a barrier to women and girls “enjoying full access to their civil, political, social and economic rights,” “trapping [them] in the vicious circle of corruption and discrimination” (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 26). Access to justice is harder for victims of corruption who are women (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 22)

Specific coercive and gendered forms of corruption, such as sextortion, are also known to predominantly affect women (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 24). The term sextortion was coined by the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) “to capture the abuse of authority to extort sex” (UNODC 2020: 44; Carnegie 2019: 8; IBA n.d.). Sextortion transpires under “duress as a result of coercion with a clear threat that access to needed goods or services will be denied if the demand for sex is not complied with” (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 24).

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) demonstrates that in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, one in five people have experienced or knows someone who has experienced sexual extortion when accessing government services such as health care or education. In Asia, the GCB figures on sextortion stand at one in seven people reporting having experienced or knowing somebody who experienced sextortion (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 25). Looking at a country example, 57% of women respondents to a survey conducted in Zimbabwe in 2019 reported that they had to “offer sexual favours in exchange for jobs, medical care and even when seeking placements at schools for their children” (Feigenblatt 2020: 12). Research on the impact of sextortion is limited; however, “anecdotal evidence suggests that sextortion has severe psychological, physical, economic and social impacts on survivors” (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 25).

Gender equality and corruption are closely interlinked. Gender inequality is known to “undermine good governance, sustainable growth, development outcomes and poverty alleviation” (Transparency International 2014: 1). Subsequently, countries that have made progress in women’s empowerment and gender equality, also tend to witness lower levels of corruption over a period of time (Transparency International 2014: 1). This could be because interventions that strengthen women’s political rights – increasing their role in organisations and public decision-making – simultaneously address other factors of good governance (such as transparency, accountability, separation of powers or rule of law), and can thus play a part in curbing corruption (WDO and UNODC 2021: 18).

Land corruption affecting women can, for instance, also have a critical impact on climate action as land is always an element of climate interventions (Transparency International 2018).

Enabling women to be agents of change in measures to curb corruption (which can be applied to strengthening gender equality in climate action), Women Development Organisation (WDO) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) put forward certain ideas (2021: 24-28):

  • collecting gender disaggregated data to provide insights for policy interventions on gender dimensions of corruption
  • building integrity and reforming institutions by including gender responsive anti-corruption interventions (such as anonymous recruitment processes to level the playing field, gender perspective in budgeting and monitoring, and so on)
  • gender sensitive public procurement policies and practices
  • gender sensitive whistleblower reporting and protection mechanisms
  • using anti-corruption education programmes to understand the interlinkages between gender and corruption
  • strengthening judicial integrity and equality before the law through addressing unconscious and conscious gender biases to nurture trust in state institutions
  • using an inclusive “whole of society approach” in measures to counter corruption by including a gender perspective into all multi-stakeholder interventions

However, experts caution against gender and anti-corruption policy pitfalls. For instance, it is essential to avoid doing inadvertent harm in anti-corruption programming (U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre n.d. b). It also needs to be acknowledged that women are not a homogenous group, and different groups of women are at risk of being disproportionally affected by corruption due to intersectional factors such as age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race and ethnicity, and religion or belief (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 13, 22-26).

Incorporating gender sensitivity and anti-corruption in climate adaptation and mitigation interventions

Climate adaptative projects in Maldives: Need for not just donor led but truly bottom-up gender inclusion

A forthcoming report by Transparency International Maldives and Institute for Research and Innovation – Villa College on the intersection of gender, climate and corruption in Maldives’ ongoing climate actions finds several noteworthy trends (Rasheed forthcoming):

  • There is a general lack of clarity in the scope and tasks of climate change adaptive projects, and gender indicators are only included if it is stipulated by donors (speaking to the need of truly bottom-up gender inclusion).
  • Women’s participation in climate actions is often thwarted by entrenched patriarchal norms in society.
  • Inclusion of women in the planning, designing, implementation, and evaluation and monitoring stages of climate projects is not prioritised.
  • There is a lack of a procedure to focus on gender groups when identifying beneficiaries through the selection process of funds/projects. Such a situation could point to the project being more focused on including the donor’s viewpoint instead of including prospective beneficiaries' perspective.
  • Participatory processes (which are crucial for accountability) are not given significant importance in the implementation of climate change projects, specifically when it comes to including women and minority groups in these practices. When consultations with communities do take place, they lack gender balance. Such a situation can lead to the manipulation of environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes with “unethical practices being embedded” in them.
  • An absence of gender responsive outcomes in projects reduced transparency in how the projects are designed and screened, implemented, monitored and evaluated.
  • Lack of proper protection for whistleblowers creates hesitancies in coming forward with cases of corruption in climate related projects.

Corruption in climate finance governance in Bangladesh undermines project outcomes aimed at women and girls

A forthcoming review of gender sensitivity in climate finance governance in Bangladesh suggests that “women and girls face discrimination and inequality due to socially constructed roles alongside negligence in assessing gender-specific needs in climate change projects”. This is attributed to (Transparency International forthcoming):

  • a lack of enforcement of existing gender policies
  • inadequate consideration of gender perspectives in climate finance mechanisms

Women and girls are also known to be “excluded from different cycles of [climate] projects, ranging from designing, planning, budgeting, implementation, and monitoring”. The lack of gender disaggregated data creates challenges in assessing the gendered impacts of and contributions to climate change (Transparency International forthcoming).

The report also highlights certain examples of how corruption can undercut intended beneficiaries (such as women and girls) from receiving the benefits of climate project outcomes. For instance, a project under the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) shows how climate funds allocated to construct climate resilient housing for women in the country were embezzled by local contractors. The final product, due to a great part of the funds being lost to corruption, were just structures that had a roof supported by four pillars, and no walls (Transparency International forthcoming). Such findings back up with other assessments. For instance, Khan et al. (2020: 12) note that an assessment of 38 climate projects revealed that 80% of these projects had poorly constructed outputs as a consequence of corruption related leaks.

The study uses 13 pre-identified indicators to analyse gender sensitivity in climate finance. These indicators are then weighed against the governance indicators of transparency, accountability, participation, coherence and integrity. Finally, a matrix is tabulated to present a snapshot of gender responsive governance in climate finance in the country (Transparency International forthcoming). Please see the table below:

Figure 2: gender responsive governance in climate finance in Bangladesh

Source: Transparency International Bangladesh (forthcoming)

Meaningful integration of gender in environmental impact assessments (EIAs) is required: Kenya

Kenya’s law requires critical examination of the effects of a project on the environment through EIA’s. Moreover, for projects such as mining, public consultations are mandatory under EIAs. Such consultations can provide a platform for communities at risk to voice their concerns. However, in reality, “gender inequality, along with corruption and limited capacity of government mining agencies to enforce the requirement for public meetings means that meaningful public participation does not occur” (Diego 2021: 10). Moreover, often women’s household tasks make it challenging for them to participate in public meetings, especially if the meeting locations are far from their homes. Thus, while it is recognised in principle that environmental impacts of mining projects can significantly affect women, in practice their perspectives on the topic are often missed (Diego 2021: 10).

Understanding barriers to gender equality and social inclusion (GESI): Nepal

Transparency International (TI) Nepal mapped the GESI dimensions of climate finance
governance, laws and policy at the national level. Their assessment suggests that patriarchal values, social stigma and discriminatory practices provide a barrier for women to engage in local stakeholder consultation processes or to call attention to any mismanagement or waste of climate adaptation budgets (TI Nepal 2021). Using a bottom-up approach to involve communities, leveraging women’s Indigenous local knowledge and practices (such as use of traditional irrigation systems), good governance and improvement of stewardship were a part of the recommendations put forward (TI Nepal 2021).

Strengthening anti-corruption in climate finance while considering gender: Multilateral funds

A report by Transparency International reviewed the governance frameworks of the Adaptation Fund, the Climate Investment Funds, the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund and the Central Africa Forest Initiative (Transparency International 2022: 4). A few recommendations from the report relevant to gender include introducing a sexual harassment policy and specifically requiring climate related investments to lead to improvements in the economic status of women (Transparency International 2022: 7).

The report explicitly assessed the “impact of gender as a challenge for reporting grievance management” and found that, because women often have less influence than men within organisations and cultures, the experience of reporting corruption, or any other kind of grievance, is not the same for them (Transparency International 2022: 11, 36).

Gender perspectives in energy transition pathways: Canada, Kenya and Spain

Analysis of energy transition pathways in the three countries found varying degrees of gender sensitivity. Nevertheless, a commonalty cutting all through was “an absence of the equal representation” and “voices of women and other minority groups [missing] in decision making” (Lieu et al. 2020: 10). Such a situation perpetuates a technical culture where gender perspectives in decision-making are excluded, and “knowledge that lies in the hands of male technical experts” is prioritised (Lieu et al. 2020: 10).

Curbing gaps in research and practice

To strengthen the three areas, discussions from Transparency International’s Climate Governance Integrity Programme webinar (2021) recommend:

  • collecting gender disaggregated data
  • working to support women’s leadership and decision-making in climate action and environmental and climate resilience
  • reducing gender gaps in access to control of natural resources (such as enhancing women’s land rights and women’s control and use of land, water, renewable energy resources, forests, fisheries and climate smart technologies, and helping women exert their legal rights).
  • supporting women’s cooperatives and collective groups

Moreover, at a project level, Rao and Kelleher’s framework to build a thorough and holistic approach to gender responsive programming can be used. For details, please see here.

Rao and Kelleher framework

Moving towards gender transformative approaches

The Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres (CGIAR) (n.d.) defines gender transformative approaches (GTAs) as “a method for tackling the roots of gender based inequalities, in particular constraining gender norms, and thereby kick-starting a process toward greater gender equality”. The idea is to engage both men and women to be agents of change together and not just burden women with the fight for equality (CGIAR n.d.). GTAs are a category on the chain (continuum) of gender integration approaches (FAO 2022; UNICEF n.d.). Please refer to the infographic below.

Figure 3: gender equity continuum

Source: UNICEF (n.d.)

GTAs aim for sustainable long-term transformation and do seem to fit the bill in terms of addressing gaps in the “business as usual” ways of project operations. However, there exists a lack of empirical evidence regarding outcomes of gender transformative versus accommodative approaches, signalling a need for further research in the area (CGIAR n.d.). Nevertheless, these approaches can be used in sectors related to climate actions.

Nevertheless, several programmes from CGIAR focused on areas such as aquaculture, fisheries, agriculture (related to climate change) have employed “gender-equitable control over assets and resources including microcredit and processing technologies” (CGIAR n.d.).

UNICEF (n.d.) reports that “gender transformation is possible, but can also be long term, is often generational, and needs sustained investments over time”. FAO (2022) adds that the central part of GTAs include “addressing practical gender needs (for example, knowledge, skills, access to productive resources) and strategic gender interests (for example, decision-making power, position/status in society) by triggering changes in agency, social relations and social structures”.

Political will and commitment from the highest levels is key in applying GTAs. A proper roll out of GTAs on the donor side requires going beyond measures such as capacity building and internal organisational learning, to “changing mindsets, shifting mental models, values and beliefs” (FAO 2022).

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) lists certain key principles to keep in mind for gender transformative climate adaptation (Pross 2019):

  • Contextual awareness: there are no one-size-fits-all climate actions, they must be tailored to the local realities and challenges of groups at risk in a specific context. A need for regular monitoring of the situation also helps to identify gaps and opportunities towards transformative change in climate actions.
  • Equal access to and control over resources and assets: for instance, measures on reforestation that require land can run the risk of excluding women who often do not have formal land rights. Similarly, housing is a key resource in dealing with extreme climatic events. Thus, access to and control of resources could support climate change preparedness for women and girls.
  • Recognise and address women’s time poverty (inequitable gender based allocation of unpaid domestic work, representing “double-duty” for women): several adaptation programmes depend on women taking the lead in on-ground implementation. This often adds to their “list of unpaid and time-consuming chores”. Unpaid and domestic work also obstructs earning potential which further weakens their resilience efforts. To ensure that climate change adaptation is not “another gendered responsibility”, climate actions must take this fact into consideration.
  • Invest in basic social services, infrastructure and social protection: social protections and access to basic services such as clean water can act as a stabilising factor in “normal times” and offer better chances at recovery in times of climate change induced disasters.
  • Open up spaces for discussion, collaboration, participation and decision-making: all groups affected by “choices about their immediate environment and its resources” ought to be adequately consulted in climate programmes. Engagement should take place at the “household, community, sub-national and national scales”.

To enable an effective GTA to climate actions, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has come up with a list of illustrative questions that need to be addressed at the stage of designing projects. Please see the infographic below:

Figure 4: illustrative questions to address in project design for a gender-transformative approach to climate change

Source: ADB (2020: 4).

Gender transformative approaches to counter corruption in climate actions

GTAs aim to address imbalanced power dynamics and eradicate the systemic forms of gender based discrimination (FAO 2022). As discussed in the previous section on gender and corruption, power asymmetries feeds the corruption and discrimination cycle experienced by women and girls (McDonald, Jenkins and Fitzgerald 2021: 22), and GTAs targeting root causes such as poverty, lack of access to basic services and civic spaces can help to break these perpetuating cycles.

Moreover, GTAs could contribute to curbing corruption leakages that threaten to undermine the implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation measures. For instance, meaningful participation of women throughout the project lifecycle from the designing, implementation, and evaluation and monitoring phases can boost the transparency and accountability of projects as well as their outcomes.

Johnston (2014) proposes that one of the most important anti-corruption approaches in the long run is “deep democratisation” that “enables people to defend their interests by political means” (UNODC 2019). Deep democratisation envisages better governments “in terms of justice and fairness” and not merely as improving administrative efficiency. Such a goal requires enhancement of institutional quality, laws and enforcement measures which, consequently, need continual “political, economic and social demand that reforms and controls be implemented effectively” (UNODC 2019).

Applying a similar lens here: women stand to lose more from the corrupt status quo in climate programming, so enabling them to have more power and resources while giving them tools to effect change should lead to better anti-corruption outcomes. For instance, in the earlier example of climate funds meant for housing women being embezzled in Bangladesh, it might be interesting to note the prevailing trend in the context is that women (intended beneficiaries) are generally not involved in decision-making or in the monitoring and evaluation of climate actions.

Corruption risk management in climate actions: Integrating a gender lens

Corruption risk assessments can be useful entry points to apply a gender lens to climate adaptation and mitigation actions. For instance, where climate change adaptation and mitigation programmes are gender blind, they could run the risk of not being sensitive to gendered forms of corruption. Unless those designing such programmes engage and consult women, they might not become aware of forms of discriminatory corruption that affect women, such as sextortion. Thus, applying a gender lens to corruption risk assessments could help showcase gaps and opportunities in relation to corruption’s impact on women and girls while identifying risks of gendered forms of corruption.

Corruption risk mitigation: if anti-corruption measures are made without keeping in mind the impact on women and girls, there are chances of these interventions worsening their situation. For instance, actions aimed at curbing activities in the informal sector could negatively affect women who make up a huge chunk of the informal workforce (U4 Anti-Corruption Centre n.d. b). Thus, when designing anti-corruption measures to safeguard funds intended to be used to adapt to and mitigate climate change, it is important to consider the gender impact of these measures and consult women's rights groups in their design.

The U4’s corruption risk management model (Johnsøn 2015) could serve as a helpful guide in providing details on the corruption management process which is briefly summarised here (Jenkins 2016: 2-4):

  1. identification step: delineating threats to the project’s outcomes, or reputational or fiduciary risk and establishing the risk appetite (tolerable levels of risk decided upon).
  2. assessment step: to establish the significance of identified risks to prioritise risk management actions. One way of doing this is using a risk matrix in which the probability that the risk will materialise is multiplied by the severity of its potential impact.
  3. treatment step: defining which identified and prioritised corruption risks need active mitigation.
  4. monitoring step: regular monitoring of actual risk levels in ongoing projects to assess if additional risk mitigation is required.

An illustrative approach in applying this corruption risk management approach with a gender lens to the project life cycle that can be relevant for climate actions is as follows:

Inception phase: donor agency’s middle management is usually involved in the initial identification and assessment of “higher order” corruption to delineate the risk appetite before getting into the planning stage (Jenkins 2016: 4). Here having gender experts and conducting focus group interviews for intended beneficiaries could be helpful in identifying risks of gendered forms of corruption. For instance, the USAID funded Liberia People Rules Organisations Supporting the Protection of Ecosystem Resources (PROSPER) project (2012-2017) had a local, full-time gender integration officer and an international short-term gender and natural resource management expert (Land O’Lakes International Development 2015: 22).

Planning phase: thorough project specific risk identification and assessment, and precautionary strategies and mitigation measures along with clear ownership of tasks are done at this stage by project teams (Jenkins 2016: 4). Ensuring meaningful participation of women and girls at this stage of decision-making could shed light on risks (including corruption risks) that they could encounter.

Ensuring meaningful participation of women and girls in corruption risk identification at the planning and design stage of climate actions

Two questions need to be kept in mind to ensure women’s participation through the project life cycle (Land O’Lakes International Development 2015: 18):

  • What constraints limit women’s full involvement along all parts of the value chain in question?
  • What are appropriate areas for intervention so that these constraints can be mitigated?

A few measures to increase participation (Land O’Lakes International Development 2015: 24, 32, 34):

  • proactively invite, and enable training and attendance of both men and women in the family
  • ensure participation is hands on, context based, practical and requires limited literacy
  • reach women without alienating men through, for instance, encouraging men that are allies on the ground to speak with other men in the community regarding the benefits of including women in decision-making
  • encourage women to attend discussion meetings with children while making proper arrangements for infants and young children

For further guidance please refer to Integrating Gender throughout a Project’s Life Cycle 2.0

Implementing phase: corruption risks tend to be most acute at this stage, and common vulnerabilities include embezzlement of funds, procurement fraud, improper asset management, and bribery risks in local permits, licences and access, etc. (Jenkins 2016: 4, 6-10). Monitoring the implementation of activities by intended beneficiaries (local households, especially the ones exerting influence in the community) could lead to lower levels of corruption in project implementation (Khan et al. 2020: 15).

Closing phase: a few corruption risks relate to the delivery of any goods or services to local communities, the sign-off on expenses or audit trails (Jenkins 2016: 4).

Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL): monitoring throughout the project life cycle is necessary to keep a finger on the pulse of emerging risks. Project evaluations could provide insights into successes and pitfalls in project implementation. However, it is worth noting that conventional MEL (often described as “project-focused, ex-post, and designed and delivered by external international evaluation teams”) may not always meet the needs of local contexts (Coger et al. 2021, 10; Rahman 2021 b: 9). Thus, MEL frameworks ought to consider existing structural inequalities, involve local communities while maintaining a gender balance in participation and enable MEL activities that are value creating for participants, among others (Rahman 2021 b: 9-10).

Whistleblower protection and gender sensitive grievance mechanisms could support these activities with the identification and mitigation of broad based as well as gendered corruption risks. For example, face-to-face communication is often favoured by women when reporting corruption, and the use of mobile grievance units to reach women in their communities could also enhance access (Zúñiga 2020, 8).

Lessons from Transparency International’s Accountable Mining Project

In South Africa, the accountable mining project reported that gender inequality and corruption in the licensing system was having an important impact on women, including, for instance, in relation to sextortion. A legal framework on sextortion is missing in the country and a lack of gender sensitive reporting mechanisms make it a challenging issue to address (Transparency International 2021).

Some lessons from the programme include the significance of guaranteeing that women at the community level are involved in decision-making processes (based on an understanding of community dynamism and complexity), and that the connection between gender and corruption is made explicit in the programme life cycle (Transparency International 2021).

Apart from the illustrative ways of including a gender lens in corruption risk assessment mentioned in this section, the UNODC briefing note on Mainstreaming Gender in Corruption Projects/Programmes serves as a helpful guide. It recommends making “anti-corruption efforts gender responsive by using social audits on women’s access to services, enacting legislation recognizing gendered impacts of corruption, addressing sexual extortion as a form of corruption, implementing regulations to address sexual extortion, and having gender sensitive complaint mechanisms” (UNODC 2021 a). Please see the infographic below for some questions to consider in embedding gender in anti-corruption measures (which could be applied to
anti-corruption interventions for climate actions):

Figure 5: considering gender in formulating project objectives, outcomes and outputs

Source: UNODC (2020 b: 8).

  1. ND-GAIN measures the overall vulnerability by considering vulnerability in six life-supporting sectors: food, water, health, ecosystem service, human habitat and infrastructure (University of Notre Dame n.d.).
  2. There is limited information on the impact of corruption on people from other genders.