Commentary – By Barry Coates on Rarotonga
The 43rd Pacific Islands Forum will be remembered for a major step forward in enabling women in the Pacific to live free from violence, discrimination and exclusion.
Long-term funding by the Australian government has been underpinned by a clear commitment from the heads of Pacific states to exercise their leadership in supporting gender equality.
Hopefully this Forum meeting will be a defining moment when real progress can be initiated.
Oxfam works in the Pacific to support the elimination of violence against women, women’s economic empowerment and women’s leadership in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
The leaders have also agreed good initiatives in other areas, including fisheries and renewable energy, and there is now a greater recognition that the Pacific Forum’s work must reach out to involve communities and people across Pacific societies.
But a more inclusive approach is needed. If communities are to benefit, they and the civil society organisations that are crucial in the lives of most Pacific people, must be included in reviews, plans and follow up actions.
In particular, the issues of climate change will affect all Pacific people over forthcoming years. The work to protect communities and help people to adapt must involve the wider society.
There are good examples of this starting to happen, but more needs to be done, with far greater urgency. The threats from climate change are potentially devastating. The responses must be far reaching and effective.
Barry Coates is executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, who has been attending the Forum meetings in Rarotonga.
Oxfam released a major new report yesterday on climate change strategic and community funding, Owning Adaptation in the Pacific, at the Forum meeting.