Statement by Hon Tangariki Reete, Minister for Women, Youth and Social Affairs of Kiribati on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women, 11 March

Statement by
Honourable Tangariki Reete
Minister for Women, Youth and Social Affairs of Kiribati

on behalf of
The Pacific Islands Forum
At the

The 58th Commission on the Status of Women
Priority Theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls

United Nations
New York
11 March 2014


Chairman, Excellencies, distinguished delegates.

I wish at the outset to congratulate you Mr Chairman on your unanimous election to chair this 58th session of the commission as well as other members of the bureau and take this opportunity to thank you for taking on this task in leading the work of the commission for all of us.

2. We from the pacific region assure you of our full support and cooperation.

3. I am indeed honoured to deliver this statement today on behalf of the member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum represented at the United Nations, namely, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu Vanuatu, and my own country, Kiribati, as well as Cook Islands and Niue.

4. Alongside other world leaders in the year 2000, Forum Leaders adopted and reaffirmed their full support for the United Nations Millennium Declaration. In 2004, Pacific Leaders set out their vision for regional integration and cooperation through the Pacific Plan. Based on four pillars – economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security – the Pacific Plan laid the foundation for the region to work together towards our collective ambitions, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. We also recognize the essential contributions by other existing international and regional frameworks.

5. The unique vulnerabilities of small island developing states are well known and documented. For many Forum Island Countries, the uniquely challenging environment that they face has generally made it difficult to progress the MDGs, and more so for women and girls. Many women and girls are especially exposed to these vulnerabilities which are further exacerbated by multiple other risks brought about by natural disasters, climate change, food security, violence, external shocks associated with financial, economic and energy crisis, and in some instances, conflicts and political instability. These challenges are further compounded by other socio-cultural inequalities faced by women and girls, and have impacted on our region’s overall performance on the MDGs.

6. The thematic focus of the 2013 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report was on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Forum Leaders considered these at their meeting in Majuro, Republic of Marshall Islands last September. The report highlighted that out of 14 Forum Island Countries, only Cook Islands, Niue and Palau are on track to achieve the broader goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women. Further, and with the exception of three countries, almost all Forum member countries are on track to achieve gender parity in education. However, access to and participation in higher education for young women is not necessarily leading to better employment outcomes due to gender barriers in labour markets. Women’s representation in parliament in the Pacific is the lowest of any region in the world; Pacific countries have some of the highest recorded rates of gender violence against women in the world; most women have limited access to the formal economy, and inadequate maternal health and limited access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights remain a key barrier to achieving women’s empowerment. Tangible investment in the structural transformation of the health sector will help to ensure delivery of services to all women.

7. Despite these challenges, some Forum member countries have made good progress towards greater gender equality and the empowerment of women. The pace, however, has been slow and uneven across our region, influenced by a series of factors already discussed – and add to these, a heritage of centuries-old traditions, decades of colonialism and missionary influence, occurrences of armed conflicts, and the growing forces of modernization, globalization and climate change.

8. We believe that the most necessary prerequisite to achieve gender equality is political will. When Leaders act on their commitments, they spur the pace of progress. Forum Leaders have taken a big step in that direction through the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. This Declaration requires action on developing gender responsive government program and policies, improving women’s leadership and representation in decision making bodies, promoting economic empowerment of women including investment in job opportunities, ending violence against women and girls, improving access to reproductive health services and ensuring gender parity in education.

9. Among these issues, a key focus area not covered in the MDGs is violence against women. This particular issue has hindered the progress of many of our Forum Island countries towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of women. Forum Leaders have also emphasized special attention to women and girls with disabilities - an issue that is not explicitly mentioned within the MDGs. Other areas that need to be addressed include discrimination in legal and human rights, and the availability of sex disaggregated data and gender analysis. For many of our Forum member countries with limited resources and capacities, these are just some of the serious challenges that we face in achieving the MDGs.

10. Pacific Ministers responsible for women’s affairs continue to advocate for gender equality commitments in the MDGs and the Beijing Platform for Action through the Revised Pacific Platform for Action on the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality 2005-2015. The 2013 Pacific Women’s Ministerial Communiqué recognized the high prevalence rates of violence against women, young women and girls, including those with disabilities, and the impact of gambling, drug and substance abuse on increasing violence and on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and called for urgent and increased investment in policies, programs, research and legislative reforms that provide services and support, including access to rights and justice. In response to the future of MDGs, Ministers called for the post-2015 development agenda to adopt a transformative stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, as well as for gender to be mainstreamed across all areas of the post-2015 development agenda.

11. The MDGs expire next year. We have learnt many lessons from which we must build on, and for the Pacific Islands Forum at least, achieving gender equality and empowering women will remain unfinished business and deserves accountability. These are important considerations as we look beyond 2015 and as the new post-2015 development framework takes shape.

12. Therefore, the Pacific contributes the following four points to this 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women:

  • Firstly, we call for greater global political and financial commitments to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs, with a particular focus on women and girls;
  • Second, we call for increased efforts to address the root causes of gender inequalities and to further address multiple forms of discrimination faced by women and girls;
  • Third, we call for a stand-alone gender equality goal, and for the incorporation of gender perspectives across the post-2015 development framework with targets and indicators that also capture the special vulnerabilities of women and girls, particularly in small island developing states; and
  • Fourth, the post-2015 framework needs to focus on targets and indicators that adequately captures the dimensions of gender inequality, including, a specific and dedicated focus on ending violence against women and girls, increasing women’s effective participation in decision making and leadership roles, women’s enhanced development through economic and technological empowerment, access to quality education and women’s sexual and reproductive health services, as well as building women’s resilience against climate impacts and natural disasters.

13. In concluding I wish to reiterate the appreciation and the value that Pacific Forum member countries accord to the work of the Commission in advancing gender equality globally. Allow me to assure you, Mr. Chairman, of the Pacific Island Forum members’ continued support and cooperation in the work of the Commission, and we look forward to a meaningful Agreed Conclusion for all.

I thank you Mr. Chairman.


Delivered: 11 March 2014, New York.

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