Statement by Henry Puna, Secretary General of the Pacific Island Forum on the 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls.
This time last week, our Pacific nations were part of a global momentum for the recognition of the loss and damage to small islands developing nations caused by a global crisis they did not create- climate change. This historic moment of global recognition was built over more than three decades of activism and intention. It calls those who have brought the planet to this point, to account for the damage, the loss, for a climate crisis which has literally set our world on fire.
The recognition of the loss and damage wreaked by climate change is connected in many ways to another global crisis suffered disproportionately by the most vulnerable— the crisis of violence affecting two out of every three pacific women and girls. November 25 marked the International Day to end violence against women. It was also the starting date for 16 days of activism and an opportunity to energize the ongoing work of decades in another crisis affecting our Pacific world.
The Loss and Damage of the scourge of Violence against women is a true threat to Pacific futures. The impacts across health sectors, law and Justice systems, economic and human development are devastating. From our homes to our Houses of Parliament across the Pacific, the crisis of gender inequality and violence speaks to the very heart of who we are as one blue Pacific continent. If we wish to achieve the peace we are named for, we must all actively do all we can to stop this epidemic. To end the violence. To speak out with and in support of survivors.
I especially note the activism theme behind the 2022 16 days campaign. It’s a call to action which is timely for our region. In 2012, as Prime minister of the Cook Islands and host of the Forum Leaders, I embraced the introduction of a Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. In 2022, Leaders are looking at a major review of this commitment— and as Secretary General of the Forum I pledge to do all I can to ensure this pledge from our Leaders more than a decade ago, can move from words to action, and make a lasting impact to lives and our collective Pacific future.
In 2022, our Leaders have also delivered another commitment at the heart of our Pacific future— the 2050 strategy builds on regional commitments such as the Pacific Platform for Action and the Forum declaration of 2012.
But days like today are reminders that words and promises are nothing without action, and action for a safer, equal world for all relies on people— all of us, taking action as individuals, families, communities and nations. In our homes, schools, churches, workplaces, we can and we must —do more to end violence against women and girls.