Since 1984, IUCN has been committed to gender equality and equity, its efforts are Union-wide and an integral part of all policies, programmes and projects. IUCN considers that its commitment to gender equality and equity means building a Union that understands the issue and whose policies respect diversity.

Gender equality and equity are matters of fundamental human rights and social justice and a preconditions for sustainable development. In the use, management and conservation of natural resources women and men have different roles and responsibilities, which vary greatly from region to region. Women often make their contributions to the family, community and society with unequal access to, control over, and benefits from resources and resource use. This inequality often exists in a context of discrimination and unequal power relationships.

Understanding the linkages between gender relationships and the environment mean achieving a better analysis of pattern use, knowledge and skills regarding conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Only with a gender perspective in place can a complete picture of human relationships and ecosystems be built up.

A policy statement

The gender equity and equality policy of IUCN constitutes a mechanism to institutionalize a process to secure equal opportunities between women and men, and their relations with the environment. The gender policy facilitates the recognition that women and men have different necessities and interests, rights and responsibilities over their resources, and that they are also affected in different ways by the conservation and development initiatives.

By acknowledging that the sustainable conservation of the environment requires the facilitation of a social change that may transform the relations between human beings and the institutions with the environment, the gender policy identifies the linkages between gender mainstreaming and environment conservation in order to make the initiatives more effective to promote the equitative participation of all people in environmental management.

In 1998, the IUCN Council adopted a Gender Policy Statement and an Action Plan, and appointed a Senior Global Gender Advisor to implement the plan. The Global Senior Gender Advisor has been looking after the process of mainstreaming gender equity and equality throughout the Union, and later updated the Gender Policy in 2007.