27 MAY 2009 RAROTONGA (Pacnews) ---- In response to a formal request of the Government of the Cook Islands, the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), in partnership with the Gender and Development Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Cook Islands and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), will hold a national workshop in Rarotonga (Cook Islands) on May 27-28 on “Temporary Special Measures to Promote Gender Balance in the Parliaments of the Cook Islands”.
The workshop has received technical and financial support from UNDP, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
“The Pacific is the region in the world with the lowest number of women in Parliament. In the Cook Islands only three women hold a parliamentary seat on a total of 24 seats”, explains Ruth Pokura, Director of the Gender and Development Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “As a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), we have committed to promoting gender balance in decision-making and legislative bodies. This commitment has been reiterated in regional agreements, including the Pacific Plan. We hope that this workshop will be a step in this direction”.
In line with Article 7 of CEDAW, the workshop will discuss how temporary special measures, such as reserved seats in parliament, quotas and other forms of affirmative action, may potentially assist the Cook Islands in achieving an improved gender balance in the national parliament.
“The Cook Islands community has demonstrated a high interest in the event with approximately 50 participants attending the workshop, including high-level government officials, Members of Parliament, civil society organizations and representatives from the private sector”, said Miles Young, Acting Director of IDLO’s Asia-Pacific Regional Centre. The Hon Wilkie Rasmussen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will open the workshop and a number of resource people, including Janet Maki, the Cook Islands Ombudsperson, UNIFEM, IDLO, PIFS and former Members of Parliament will provide expert advice and contribute to discussions. Hon Dame Carol Kidu, Minister of Welfare and Community Development of Papua New Guinea will discuss her countries experience related to the introduction of temporary special measures. Other initiatives in the region will also be analyzed.
Rita Taphorn, Regional Programme Manager of UNIFEM’s Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme, explains: “The objective of the workshop is for participants to understand what temporary special measures are, which might be the most relevant in the context of the Cook Islands and what the adoption of these measures would entail on a legal, institutional and social level”. It is expected that the workshop will provide a fora for participants to discuss and potentially agree on a national work program or strategy to improve gender balance in the national parliament. “We will provide information on the possible options, but it will be up to the Cook Islands to decide and bring forward the process”…..PNS (ENDS)