On the occasion of the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum, gender equality leaders from the Pacific region held the Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality in Cook Islands on August 31st. Dialogue Participants affirmed that the economic, social, and political progress of the region can only be achieved with consistent and collaborative efforts to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls, and to promote and protect their human rights.
Dialogue Participants welcomed the Pacific Leaders’ Gender Equality Declaration. They joined Leaders in expressing their deep concern that despite gains in girls’ education and some positive initiatives to address violence against women, overall progress in the region towards gender equality is slow. They reinforced Leaders’ concerns that women’s representation in Pacific legislatures remains the lowest in the world; violence against women is unacceptably high; and women’s economic opportunities remain limited. Dialogue Participants recognized that gender inequality is imposing a high personal, social, and economic cost on Pacific people and nations, and that improved gender equality will make a significant contribution to creating a prosperous, sustainable, and secure Pacific for all current and future generations.
Dialogue Participants applauded Leaders’ renewed determination and invigorated commitment to implement national policy actions to promote gender equality in the areas of gender responsive government programs and policies, decision making, economic empowerment, ending violence against women, and health and education. Dialogue Participants also commended the diverse initiatives by civil society around the region in advancing gender equality and human rights and encouraged strong support for their efforts.
Dialogue Participants expressed their support for the Pacific Women’s Empowerment Initiative policy dialogues held in 2011 as a collaborative effort among the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the United States and the World Bank Group. The Initiative brought together government leaders, civil society, and the private sector, and served to offer policy and program recommendations to advance gender equality in the region. They also appreciated the joint commitment of the Governments of New Zealand and the United States under the Wellington Declaration, demonstrated by the “Emerging Pacific Women’s Leadership Programme,” which has also been supported by Australia and the World Bank Group.
Dialogue Participants welcomed Australia’s new announcement of the “Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development” initiative, which provides a comprehensive and long-term investment strategy that will promote cooperation between governments, Pacific regional inter-governmental organizations, civil society and development partners in the Pacific region.
The Governments of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States launched the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women– a collaborative initiative to build capacity, support emerging women leaders, and establish networks for sustainable leadership development in the region. Representatives of the three governments expressed their commitment to support the East-West Center’s initiative to coordinate with regional academic institutions and private sector partners across the Pacific region to strengthen these institutions’ leadership training and networking capabilities.
They noted that the Rarotonga Partnership will build on and support the global principles espoused in the Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination in the Pacific,
the Paris Declaration for Aid Effectiveness, the Accra Agenda for Action, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, and the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development.
Dialogue Participants appreciated regional organizations such as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and UN agencies’ support for the Pacific Island countries in the areas of women’s leadership, economic empowerment, and efforts to end gender-based violence.
Dialogue Participants highlighted the scope of their gender-based assistance and activities in the Pacific region and emphasized the importance of close cooperation among partners to enhance effectiveness, mobilize resources, and promote coordination of regional assistance programs aimed at supporting inclusive, sustainable, and environmentally responsible growth, as well as to advance gender equality in the region.
Participants of the Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality:
-Henry Tuakeu Puna, Prime Minister, Cook Islands
-Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, U.S.A.
-Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand
-Richard Marles, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Australia
-Penny Williams, Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, Australia
-Amanda Ellis, Deputy Secretary, International Development, New Zealand
-Frankie Reed, Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu, and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, U.S.A.
-Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, International Organizations, U.S.A.
-Nileema Noble, Resident Coordinator, United Nations Development Programme
-Elzira Sagynbaere, Pacific Regional Program Director, UN Women
-Andie Fong Toy, Deputy Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
-Karin Finkelston, Vice President for Asia Pacific, IFC/World Bank Group
-Patricia Sachs-Cornish, Acting Director Strategic Engagement, Policy and Planning, Secretariat of the pacific Community (SPC)
-Joyce Kere, Secretary for Foreign Affairs & External Trade, Solomon Islands
-Lucy Bogari, Acting Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Papua New Guinea
-Tessie Lambourne, Secretary for Foreign Affairs & Immigration, Kiribati
-Loujaya Toni, Minister of Women’s Affairs, PNG
-O’Love Tauveve Jacobsen, High Commissioner to NZ, Niue
-Adimaimalaga (Adi) Tafuna’I, Co-Founder, Women in Business Development Inc, Samoa
-Virisila Buadromo, Executive Director of Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Fiji
-Mary Kaviamu Jack, Program Officer, Pacific Institute of Public Policy, Vanuatu
-Teresa Manarangi-Trott, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, Cook Islands
-Charles Morrison, East-West Center
-Gerald Finin, East-West Center