Welcome Address By Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director General of The Pacific Community

The President of the Republic of Marshall Islands
The Vice President of Kiribati
Ministers for Women and Heads of Delegations
Heads and Representatives of CROP Agencies, UN Agencies and Development Partners
Excellences and members of the diplomatic corps
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

Welcome all to the official opening of the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and the 6th Pacific Ministers for Women meeting! As Director General of the Pacific Community, it is my honour and privilege to start this evening’s proceedings and I am heartened by the high-level representation from our countries and territories, the participation of partners from civil society and support of our development partners. This has certainly fueled my expectations for the outcomes of the discussions and recommendations over the next three days, to accelerate the gender equality agenda for the region, and ways to ensure that our region’s economies grow with strategies for women’s economic empowerment. Over the years both the Triennial Conference Meetings were held as two separate forums with two separate Agendas and Outcomes Documents. This time, after numerous internal discussions on how we can better organize these meetings, we resolved that we will have one meeting with two parts, first the Conference and secondly the Ministers meeting; and we will have one Outcomes document negotiated at the Conference and endorsed at the Ministers’ meeting. I feel that it is important that we make this clarification at the start before we proceed any further.

Ladies and gentlemen, 2017 is a significant year for the Pacific Community. At our 47th Meeting of the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations and the 10th Conference of the Pacific Community, we celebrated our 70th Anniversary as an organization. Since 1947, SPC has responded to our members needs for scientific technical assistance and capacity strengthening, including social science which encompasses social inclusion and gender equality. SPC, as the oldest of the CROP family member continues to lead and prioritize the advancement of gender equality in the region, as part of our business and mandate. One of the main activities for SPC’s 70th Anniversary was the launch of the 70 Inspiring Pacific Women Campaign, as a countdown to the start of the Triennial Conference today. In the last 70 days, we have all learned about women from diverse sectors of development and at a range of levels in our societies, who have all made meaningful and valuable contributions to the lives of our people, in their communities, at the national regional and international levels. Indeed, as SPC Director General, I follow the footsteps of one our inspiring Pacific women, Lourdes Pangelinan from Guam. This evening we are privileged to have one of the 70 Inspiring Women with us, the very first elected woman head of state in the Pacific; Her Excellency, President Dr Hilda Heine. I congratulate all of our 70 Inspiring Pacific Women for their valuable contributions to sustainable development in the region in the last 70 years and look forward to following the achievements of the emerging Inspiring Pacific Young Women, in fact I was so pleased to meet one of them in person while I was in Samoa for the leaders meeting.

As SPC Director General I am a member of the Pacific Women Advisory Board for the Government of Australia funded Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Programme, and I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the continued support of Australia for the Triennial.

The 13th Triennial Conference is focusing on the Economic Empowerment of Pacific Women. The Pacific Review of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2015 highlighted that women‘s economic empowerment in the Pacific Islands region remains a key challenge, as women continue to experience limited job opportunities, remain under-represented in management positions and face weak employment and social protection mechanisms, particularly in the private sector. The Triennial Conference and Pacific Ministers for Women Meeting is timely as we work towards finalizing our Pacific Headline Indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals, under the leadership of the CROP Sustainable Development Working Group. This provides us with an opportunity to ensure we have the right statistics and information to measure and evaluate progress towards gender equality and track how our region is doing in terms of advancing the economic empowerment of women, against our own national and regional frameworks and at the global level.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Triennial conference and Pacific Ministers for Women meeting is the only regional platform that gives us the space to deliberate on challenges relating to advancing gender equality; and to explore solutions that as a region, we can all take on board to address the barriers that continue to stall progress for gender equality in the Pacific. As we open the Triennial Conference and the Ministerial Meeting this evening, I would like to encourage all of us to consider how we can make proactive use of this platform this week, to progress our national and regional agenda for gender equality as appropriate, within our countries and territories building to the regional level and ultimately the global stage. .

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you all once again to the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and the 6th Pacific Ministers for Women meeting, I wish you well in your deliberations throughout the week, good evening and vinaka vakalevu.