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Forum Chair's Statement at the UN Security Council on Women, Peace and Security, New York

Mr. President, Excellencies,

1. I have the honor to speak on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Member States represented at the UN, namely, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and my own nation, the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

2. The Pacific Islands Forum members stand at the verge of evolving security issues – situations where women have a critical role working towards stability – yet at the same time, despite some positive gains, overall progress in the region towards gender equality is slow, with only mixed progress since last year's Forum Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. Despite some positive steps, including women serving in important government positions, participation of women representation in parliament in the Pacific is the lowest of any region in the world.

3. The region has recently witnessed and continues to be affected by armed conflict, civil unrest, and local level conflicts over resources, increasing violent crime and political crises. Women and children constitute a disproportionate number of those affected.

 4. Women face a variety of security challenges in the Pacific – water and food security, loss of land, violence, and economic empowerment. A range of potential drivers are apparent – ranging from economic inequalities, land, governance, alienated youth, urban migration and inter-group tensions – with results that heavily disrupt the lives of women and their families, and increases the risk of sexual and gender-based violence. More recently, climate change has been recognized by Forum Leaders as the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific. Climate impacts risk forced displacement, with clear implications for women, and poses security questions which have no simple solutions or easy precedents.

 5. In times of natural disasters, which are increasing in the Pacific region, women and girls are more prone to sexual violence in the context of displacement, due to the loss of their home or traditional protection mechanisms through family/clan structures.

 6. In many violent situations in the Pacific region, women have demonstrated their capacity to contribute to solutions, as mediators, as providers of safe havens, or in working to improve local communities.

 7. Women and young women have also played an important part in conflict prevention, management and recovery in the region. Women have generally been the first to actively work across ethnic divides, despite considerable risks.

 8. The Pacific region is working to achieve better participation in formal conflict prevention and management and post-conflict recovery efforts, as well as oversight and accountability mechanisms for the security sector. The region recognises the value of having women at the negotiating table in leadership roles and the need to provide sufficient recognition and resources to do their work.

 9. In December 2010, as part of the 10thanniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325, a Pacific Regional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security was established. In June 2011, the Forum Regional Security Committee gave this group the policy task of developing a Regional Action Plan, which has been formally recognized by leaders. Earlier this year, a regional Reference Group was established to oversee the Regional Action Plan's implementation.

10. This Action Plan provides a detailed regional framework to enhance women and young women's leadership in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, to mainstream gender, and ensure women and girls' human rights are protected in humanitarian crises, transition from conflict or disaster, and post-conflict situations – all with a mechanism to accelerate implementation of existing international, regional and national commitments on women, peace and security. This Action Plan may assist to address gaps and advance solutions. A range of further means may be considered, including the UN Regional Gender architecture, UN in-country assistance, and resource allocation decisions.

 11. The Biketawa Declaration sets forward the framework for regional conflict prevention and management of political crises. Our Regional Action Plan is a key platform to better integrate gender into this security framework – and thus is a specific response to relevant Security Council resolutions. 

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