Pacific governments and regional organisations must strengthen efforts to ensure that development benefits men and women equally say regional gender and development specialists.
Participants at the second annual Pacific Gender and Development Partners Meeting held in Nadi, Fiji, in early July 2009 agreed that gender equality is not being adequately prioritised in the Pacific region despite long-standing commitments.
In a follow-up to discussions at the inaugural Gender and Development Partners Meeting in August last year, the principal focus of this year’s gathering was the Pacific Regional Gender and Development Partners Cooperation Framework.
The framework, spearheaded by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), is a mechanism for enhancing agency coordination and collaboration. It encourages partners to work more closely together in supporting national governments and to identify areas or gaps that need greater attention and resources.
The framework provides a matrix of the gender mandates of development partners, and charts current and ongoing gender activities linked to regional frameworks such as the revised 2004 "Pacific Platform for Action on the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality" and "The Pacific Plan."
Treva Braun, SPC’s Human Development Adviser (Gender Equality), says: ‘Achieving international commitments to aid effectiveness requires regional development and donor partners to ramp up their internal systems for gender responsiveness and develop comprehensive systems for working together. It also means having specific and appropriate domestic and overseas aid budgets in place.’
Meeting participants agreed that regional agencies need to develop systems for collaboration, such as a system for tracking funds allocated to gender-specific activities and ensuring gender analysis is done across all sectoral work programmes.
According to a 2008 study commissioned by SPC, on average less than one percent of domestic resources is being allocated to achieving gender equality in the region despite the immense benefits it could bring for individuals, communities and nations. Large differentials between women’s and men’s access to resources, higher education, and economic and political participation, as well as widespread violence against women, mean that whole societies and economies are severely handicapped in achieving economic and development goals.
The low priority still being accorded to gender equality in regional organisations was evident in various discussions at the meeting. A status update on the gender strategy of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) confirmed that despite commitments to gender mainstreaming across the 10 CROP agencies, only two – SPC and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) – have dedicated gender staff.
None of the agencies have systematic mechanisms or sufficient staffing in place to ensure that donor funded development work is meeting the differing needs and circumstances of women and men in the region.
An initiative from last year’s meeting to develop a proposal for setting up a dedicated Gender Studies programme is underway at the University of the South Pacific (USP) – one of the CROP agencies – but progress is slow due to low prioritisation and inadequate resources.
Development partners agreed that, in all cases, gender issues need to be more firmly planted on high-level agendas.
In one positive development, the agenda of the next Forum Leaders Meeting includes both gender-based violence and women’s political participation. The meeting will take place in August 2009.
Other key areas of collaboration discussed at the meeting included the strengthening and sharing of a regional database of gender experts hosted by the UNDP Pacific Centre; an SPC-led gender mainstreaming capacity stocktake and strengthening initiative being undertaken in Pacific Islands countries and territories; and more support for Pacific countries to participate in the 15-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action (a global agenda for advancing gender equality that was agreed to at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995).
Participants at the meeting included representatives from PIFS, United Nations agencies, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum Pacific Project, the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission, USP, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation and SPC. Donor agencies present were AusAID, NZAID and the Asian Development Bank.
For more information please contact Treva (Téa) Braun, SPC Human Development Adviser (Gender Equality), tel: +687 26 01 91 or e-mail