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

Heritage Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand
FEBRUARY 12-15, 2001

OPENING STATEMENT by Amelia Siomomua Women's Development Adviser Pacific Women's Resource Bureau (PWRB)

We are in an era of realignment. Globalization envelops the world. At the international, regional and national levels, fundamental forces are at work to reshape the structures of opportunities and constraints. And while these fundamental forces are at work, the large pockets of poverty remain endemic; the assertion of differences is on the rise; and the will of the people and the integral rights are both celebrated and violated.

Nevertheless, it is not beyond the powers of the political leaders to tip the scale towards a more secure and predictable peace, greater economic well being, social justice and environmental sustainability. Finding the appropriate balance, however, especially in contexts where civil society is weak and transitional forces overpowering, is an exceedingly complex task. Included in these contexts are the efforts towards equality between men and women and the entitlement of all to human rights, without any distinctions on any grounds.

Today, we come together to encourage, strengthen and assist each other with a common goal, to overcome challenges with the implementation of CEDAW in the countries of our region. Whilst we acknowledge the complexity of these tasks, we recognize that the tireless efforts to implement CEDAW will pave the way for a brighter future for our children and their children.

At this stage, I would like to join others in thanking UNDESA/DAW, UNDP, ESCAP, and last but not least our host, the Government of New Zealand, for the wonderful arrangements and technical assistance enabling us all to be at this important workshop. I would also take this opportunity to bring greetings and best wishes to all participants from the Director-General of the SPC.

As you are all aware, the SPC's Pacific Women's Resource Bureau (PWRB) was given the mandate as the regional coordinating body to assist countries towards ratification, implementation, reporting and monitoring of CEDAW. I am pleased to report that having just joined the PWRB, I find that SPC's governing council (the CRGA), and SPC Executive re-affirmed their support of the Bureau and its work program, which includes CEDAW as one of its priority focal areas.

In the Pacific, we have countries yet to ratify the Convention and those that have ratified. Those that have celebrated ratification, then begin the process of reporting to the UN. The reporting to the UN serves as a dynamic force for change, as it allows for monitoring, assessment and evaluation of countries' strategies. These changes force us to ask questions like how do we collect all the data to show that yes indeed, women do not get the same education opportunities, the same pay at work as the men of their countries? What about a Constitutional review? Where do we start? How do we deal with equal opportunities for women? Should women have the same rights to land as men? What will happen to our Pacific cultures? There are many more. These questions, and the extent to which countries honor their commitments under CEDAW, are ones that nations must address themselves.

This workshop serves as a reminder that the questions cannot by means be ignored if we are to honor the Convention. The CEDAW promise is one of fundamental human rights --- to uproot practices of inequality and discrimination. Of course, we all wish it could be that simple. This workshop acknowledges the difficulty of such a task.

While it can depend on mobilization by Pacific men and women across governments, NGOs and lobby groups; true equality for women is measured in the reports which the UN Committee for CEDAW will receive when it meets every year.

The SPC is committed, given its limited resources and the mandate from its member countries, to assist the processes by which Pacific Island nations can fulfill its plans to implementation CEDAW. Let us take this as an opportunity to learn and encourage each other for further progress of women and sustainable development for our countries.

For additional information:

Amelia Siomomua Women's Development Adviser Pacific Women's Resource Bureau (PWRB) Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) E-Mail: 

Lisa Leilani Williams Communications Officer, PWRB e-mail: 

Sarah Langi English Editor Secretariat of the Pacific Community BP D5 98848 Noumea Cedex New Caledonia Tel +687 26 01 96 

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