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  • Writer's pictureMeg Yates

Unveiling Greenwashing: CSW 2024 Insights on Women's and Indigenous Land Rights

Written by Meg Yates, 2023 CSW Fellow

Attending the 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York was a deeply impactful experience. Among the many insightful sessions I attended, one that left a lasting impression on me was an NGO-run parallel event called “Women’s Land Rights and Economic Empowerment.” In this session, I had the privilege of hearing firsthand accounts from women representing diverse backgrounds, including Lebanon, occupied territories in Western Sahara and Palestine, and the Sami tribe of Norway.

These women shared stories of the challenges relating to land rights, particularly within the context of renewable energy development. The concept of ‘green desperation’ was a recurring theme, highlighting how the relentless pursuit of renewable energy projects by governments and big corporations has resulted in instances of human rights violations across the globe. They revealed how institutions use their ‘green image’ to mask non-renewable energy practices and the detrimental impact on communities.

For instance, in the Western Saharan occupied territories, the Moroccan government has been found to be destroying land and property for renewable energy projects without consent from the Sahrawi people, and no provision of compensation. Women in Western Sahara are disproportionately impacted, with panel members sharing devastating stories of sexual violence against women and exclusion from education and economic opportunities.

A panel member of Sami descent from Norway pointed out, “Nordic countries are seen as champions of human rights but are using this rhetoric to keep their treatment of Sami people and other Indigenous communities across the world invisible.” This sentiment highlights how corporate interests and geopolitical dynamics can overshadow sustainability goals, leading to serious infringements on Indigenous rights. The panelist shared that “Indigenous people have always lived in a sustainable way […] and have already sacrificed so much. We need Indigenous knowledge to keep the world green. If we destroy the nature, we can’t go back.”

There is an urgent need for Indigenous peoples to be actively included in decision-making processes related to renewable energy development and environmental sustainability. It is imperative that Indigenous people and people from marginalised communities not only have a seat at the table but also play a central role in shaping policies that safeguard their land and ensure equitable benefits from the transition to renewable energies.

Reflecting on my experience at CSW 2024, I realised the lack of media coverage in Australia for many global human rights issues discussed. It highlighted the importance of actively seeking diverse perspectives and information sources to stay informed about human rights issues around the world.

Staying up to date with global media is not just about being informed; it's about being an advocate and ally for marginalised communities worldwide. As civil society, we can play an important role in holding governments and corporations accountable for their actions. By amplifying marginalised voices and actively engaging in discussions and actions that promote human rights and environmental justice, we can contribute to a more equitable and sustainable world.


The views and opinions expressed by Global Voices Fellows do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation or its staff.

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