Delivered by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna
at the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting
Suva, Fiji, 31 August 2023
Thank you Hon. Vainetutai Rose Toki-Brown, Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum,
All protocols observed.
Kia Orana and ni sa bula vinaka.
I am honoured to welcome you all to your Secretariat and to the second (2nd) Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting. As your Secretary General, I extend my warmest greetings and appreciation to each of you for your presence at this vital gathering.
I congratulate the Hon. Minister Vainetutai Rose Toki-Brown and the Government of the Cook Islands for assuming the role of Chair of this year’s PIF Women Leaders Meeting. Your Secretariat stands ready to provide support in your tenure as Chair.
I would also like to thank the Government of Fiji for chairing the first PIF Women Leaders Meeting last year, and for guiding our drua on its maiden voyage towards a more equal and inclusive Pacific. A real milestone.
Without a doubt, our region faces numerous challenges, but it is also filled with immense potential. This Meeting provides us with a unique opportunity to discuss pressing issues facing our region, chart a course for sustainable development, and foster stronger collective action.
You may notice that many of us here today are in black. Your Secretariat supports the Thursdays in Black global campaign to end gender-based violence. We stand in solidarity with survivors of violence as we continue to strive for a safe and secure Blue Pacific for all.
Gender-Based Violence affects all of us – it affects our homes and places of employment, and limits opportunities for the most vulnerable.
However, global evidence demonstrates that gender-based violence, particularly violence against women and girls, is preventable within years.
It is not impossible, and we have many years of work to draw on. Some of this work was shared at the Pacific Partnership on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention Summit, in April this year.
There is no place for violence in our region, and it is on all of us to make that a reality.
This is my challenge to all of us, this Thursday, 31st day of August, 2023. Let September bring with it new commitment to prevent and end gender-based violence in our Pasifika.
This year marks the second convening of the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting, now endorsed by our Leaders as an annual standing Pacific Islands Forum meeting to inform the annual Leaders convening.
At this juncture, I would like to acknowledge with sincere gratitude, the continued support provided to your Secretariat by the people and Government of Australia to enable us to convene this important meeting and ensure the outcomes from the Meeting are actioned. Vinaka vakalevu.
Since the inaugural meeting in June 2022 and the Leaders meeting a month later, the Secretariat has undertaken a consultation process to revitalise the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, and I am pleased to share that the revitalised Declaration will be presented for your consideration before it is taken to Leaders later this year.
Before I continue, I would like to thank you all for your full engagement in the consultation process. These consultations have shown that while we have made some progress there is still much more to be done.
These have highlighted emerging issues on gender equality and social inclusion, which have shaped the revitalised Declaration, particularly on its focus and proposed governance mechanism, further positioning it as the high-level and overarching gender equality framework for the region, grounded in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, our North Star.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of many. Our civil society continue to hold all of us to account for the commitments made; our private sector is leading the way to ensure women are provided opportunities to contribute to growing our Blue Pacific economies, and at the same time supporting gender parity in leadership positions; academia for ensuring that we have access to and utilise homegrown knowledge to inform our way forward; and all our people who continue their daily efforts to make gender equality and social inclusion a reality for the region.
Only when we have gender equality and inclusion can we achieve Forum Leaders’ vision for the Pacific – one that is resilient and of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy, and productive lives.
I wish you all fruitful deliberations and your Secretariat stands ready to support you. I look forward to the outcomes that will undoubtedly contribute to the well-being of all Pacific people.
Meitaki ma’ata, Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.