The climate refugee crisis is reaching a critical stage as global migration and displacement caused by climate change reach record levels. Women, while disproportionately impacted by climate migration, play a crucial role in the search for solutions to this global catastrophe. To effectively coordinate efforts, share knowledge, and bring awareness to climate refugees, governments and the international community can employ digital tools and platforms. The necessity for digital diplomacy becomes especially evident in the aftermath of the Pakistan floods of 2022. With an emphasis on climate migration, the potential for digital diplomacy to solve global concerns and how it might enable women to take an active role in developing and finding answers will be explored subsequently.
In the 27th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women held in March 2023 , a message emerged: the prospect of a sustainable world economy depends on women participating in digital technology. While women are usually excluded from decision-making processes, their participation in public life (including online) remains consistent. Still, women are frequently restricted from accessing economic and educational possibilities and are often subject to online gender-based harassment and discrimination. Nonetheless, women play a crucial role as critical advocates for human rights and change-makers in international affairs. The international community must unite to counter misogyny as well as defend the rights of women and girls worldwide. A crucial aspect to this effort is involving women in the planning of government programs aimed at educating and empowering them with important technical skills as well as increasing their numbers and representation in the technology sector. A notable instance is Australia, where the inclusion of women in the technology workforce contributed to an annual economic growth of $1.8 billion, according to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The World Economic Forum has underlined the need for an effective and transparent process of providing humanitarian help, where technology may enable implementation, distribution, and usage. Digitalization has emerged as a powerful instrument to address humanitarian crises, as exemplified by recent events in Pakistan. The country’s initiative, “Asaan Mobile Account” (AMA) has provided millions of Pakistanis with bank accounts, allowing them to obtain emergency aid funding during the continuous extreme flooding. Despite accounting for only 18% of total bank account holders in Pakistan, women constituted 44% of those registered for the country’s AMA program. This drastic difference in representation emphasizes how transformative technology can be in providing agency and power to marginalized groups.

As the world grapples with natural disasters, wars, and other catastrophes, simple yet effective solutions such as the AMA project can be replicated and implemented in both developing and developed countries to ensure financial inclusion. Anyone can create a bank account under the AMA program, but it is particularly beneficial to women, the economically marginalized, and members of minority groups. Ensuring that women are actively included in the development of digital technology and that they are not left behind in technical breakthroughs is imperative. By pursuing this approach, digital diplomacy can play a role in addressing global concerns while empowering women to participate in finding solutions.

Recent crises have emphasized the urgent need to strengthen resilience while preserving and improving equitable development. By bridging the gender gap and eliminating disadvantages faced by women, digital technology can empower from the grassroots level towards better informed policy decisions. One pressing issue demanding immediate attention is that of climate refugees; digital diplomacy provides a possible answer.

70 million Pakistanis, composing 16 million households, have been affected by the flooding, with life even more difficult for the most vulnerable of these people.. The use of digital mapping technologies, such as the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX), can aid in tracking the movement of climate migrants and identifying places where assistance is required. Equipped with such technologies, governments and other global players can then also play a vital role in resolving this global crisis. The AMA program in Pakistan serves as a great blueprint for use around the world and provides governments much-needed information on the distribution of its humanitarian funding.

The empowerment of women and their active involvement in initiatives to address climate migration are not just admirable goals, they are crucial to manifest the development of effective solutions. By including women in decision-making processes, not only will their viewpoints and needs be considered, but can also contribute to solution finding. To truly address the impact of climate change and environmental issues on women, as well as incorporate their perspectives on digital technologies, the international community must move beyond mere rhetoric on climate and gender.

Once they are included in the implementation of digital diplomacy towards solving climate migration issues, women can become powerful agents of change through their contributions to problem solving, information sharing, and coordination efforts. The AMA program is an excellent illustration of digital diplomacy being employed to effectively advance gender equality and empower women in their efforts to deal with climate migration. However, it is imperative to acknowledge that digital technologies alone cannot tackle the complex issue of climate migration. We must also address the existing digital gap, particularly in low-income and developing nations. In these regions, consistent access to the internet remains rare for many, and there is a lack of necessary skills to fully utilize digital technologies. While digital diplomacy offers great promise in addressing climate migration and empowering women, we must remember that it is only one piece of the puzzle. To truly tackle climate issues, substantive measures and policy reforms are required. Through increasing cooperation and combining digital diplomacy with concrete actions, we can build a more fair, inclusive and sustainable world for everyone. To ensure this future that we envision, the international community must ensure that women are not just heard, but actively empowered to shape our collective responses to the challenges of climate migration.

Written by Anna Tutner; Edited by Maryam Sindi

Photo credit to: Dibakar Roy, unsplash