NEW ZEALAND Z MEETING TO STRENGTHEN PACIFIC COMMITMENTS TO COMMITTEE ONTHE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN

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SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY (SPC) Nouméa, New Caledonia Suva, Fiji Islands

NEWS RELEASE February 6, 2001

NEW ZEALAND MEETING TO STRENGTHEN PACIFIC COMMITMENTS TO COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN

Representatives (drawn from governments and NGOs) of 14 Pacific Island nations meet in Auckland next week (February 13-15) for a sub-regional training workshop on support to the preparation of States Parties' Reports to be submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The workshop aims to increase the participants' awareness of and capacity to act in support of women's rights and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), including obligations of ratification and reporting progress in their countries.

The sub-regional training workshop is being jointly funded and organized by UNDAW (United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women), UNDP (United Nations Development Program), and the Government of New Zealand with input from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

The workshop also serves as a timely reminder to countries that commitments to equality for women go beyond a signature on an international convention -- and that the process of reporting serves as a dynamic force for change as it allows for monitoring, assessment and evaluation of CEDAW.

The key aim of three days of talks is to assist countries to fulfill their commitment to the CEDAW convention. Beyond signing, there are obligations to report on what has been done in each country to eliminate discrimination against women. Of all the Pacific signatories, only one has submitted its first report to the UN Committee on CEDAW.

The CEDAW reports that are submitted to the United Nations describe the steps that have been taken by countries to eliminate discrimination against women in line with the Convention. One such move might be to conduct a review of national laws, digging out any clauses in the Constitution that discriminate on the basis of sex.

The Pacific Island countries at the meeting will include those who have ratified CEDAW-- Samoa, Fiji Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Vanuatu; those who have ratified through foreign administrations -- Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Niue, French Polynesia, Tokelau, and Wallis and Futuna; and those who have yet to ratify -- American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Kiribati, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands, Solomons Islands, and Tonga.

Representatives from the donor community and regional organizations will also be at the meeting.

Background: The PWRB has the role of coordinating CEDAW for the 22 member countries and territories of the Pacific Community. In June 1997, at the PWRB 7th Conference of Pacific Women, the 13 critical areas of concern in the Pacific Platform for Action were regrouped into a framework of five core points. Implementation of CEDAW for SPC member countries and territories was identified as a key issue.

By July 1998, the PWRB, with ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific) and UNDP, convened a sub-regional workshop on CEDAW mechanisms. The aim was to forward commitments of SPC member governments to ratify the Convention by the year 2000. Countries set specific priorities, and these issues are likely to be revisited in the forthcoming meeting.

SPC, through the PWRB, has worked with CEDAW specialist Wati Seeto to provide technical assistance to the Pacific region on the Convention, which, along with the Pacific Platform for Action, provides a blueprint for development and equality for Pacific women. Seeto is based with RRRT, the Pacific Regional Human Rights Education Resource team. The UK Government through its Department for International Development (DFID) funds this project.

The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW) and other relevant agencies of the UN are funding the CEDAW sub-regional training workshop. New Zealand's Government is funding NGO delegates to attend the meeting and UN funding is supporting the travel of government delegates and NGO representatives from some of the Micronesian states.

For more information, contact: Amelia Siamomua Women's Development Adviser Pacific Women's Resource Bureau SPC Email: AmeliaS@spc.int  Tel: 687 260 119

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