Women’s Empowerment at the Frontline of Adaptation

Box 1: Key definitions

Adaptive capacity: The combination of the strengths, attributes, and resources available to an individual, community, society, or organization that can be used to prepare for and undertake actions to reduce adverse impacts, moderate harm, or exploit beneficial opportunities. Also defined as the ability of systems, institutions, and individuals to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences. Adaptation to climate change: In human systems, the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, which seeks to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In natural systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects; human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate. Capabilities: A person’s opportunity and ability to generate valuable outcomes. Gendered impacts and opportunities: Differences in experienced impacts and possible responses due to distinct social and cultural roles imposed on men and women, always in combination with other dimensions of privilege and marginalization (age, class, caste, race, ethnicity, [dis]ability). Flexibility: Potentialities for change and opportunities for adaptation under conditions of uncertainty. Resilience: The ability of a social, ecological, or socio-ecological system and its components to anticipate, reduce, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a disturbance in a timely and efficient manner, including the human ability to learn from mistakes and be forward-looking in thinking and action, as well as the ability of ecosystems to preserve and restore their functions. It is useful to distinguish between ‘engineering’ or restorative resilience and ‘ecological’ or transformative resilience (bounce back and bounce forward). Uncertainty: A state of incomplete knowledge that can result from a lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. Uncertainty may have many sources, from imprecision in data to ambiguously defined concepts or terminology, or uncertain projections of human behaviour. Uncertainty may also be inherent in the biophysical properties of a system, such as the climate system. Uncertainty can, therefore, be represented by quantitative measures (e.g., a probability density function) or by qualitative statements (e.g., reflecting the judgment of a team of experts). Vulnerability: The propensity (natural tendency) or predisposition (structurally-driven tendency or likelihood) to be harmed.

Source: Based on the scientific framing for ICIMOD’S regional programme on Adaptation to Change, existing science efforts, and the contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC 2013a, 2013b, 2013c).


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