23rd February, 2013
Women members of Pacific Parliaments met in Sydney, Australia from 9-10 February 2013 to forge friendships and build a new path forward in addressing gender equality. The forum followed the Gender Equality Declaration, agreed at the Pacific Island Leaders’ Forum in August 2012 in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
The forum participants and contributors included Presiding Officers, Deputy Presiding Officers, parliamentarians, electoral candidates and parliamentary staff from 19 Parliaments: Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Bougainville, Cook Islands, Kiribati, New South Wales, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, South Australia, Tasmania, Tonga, Western Australia and Victoria.
The forum was coordinated by the Australian Parliament, with the financial support of AusAID, under the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative.
The forum heard from women parliamentarians in the Pacific about their experience of being elected in their country. Professor Pippa Norris (Harvard University) outlined a six-step action plan to ensure women are better represented in parliaments in the Asia Pacific Region. Project partners, the Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians for Population and Development (AFPPD) presented what they are doing in the region on parliamentary strengthening activities to address gender equality.
Good practice examples from Pacific parliaments were discussed at the forum as part of efforts to encourage information sharing through the Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships network. Group work concentrated on three areas of work: supporting individual women parliamentarians; supporting parliaments (including men parliamentarians) to address gender equality issues; and supporting parliamentary staff.
Forum participants and contributors from the 19 parliaments reached consensus on priorities for addressing the paucity of women in Pacific parliaments, and the capacity of those parliaments to address gender equality issues.
It was agreed that responsibility for implementation of the priorities needed to be shared with a range of people and organisations, including parliaments, parliamentarians, governments, community based organisations and members of the public, with support from international parliamentary organisations and international donors.
In discussing these priorities, forum participants agreed on the value of their interaction with each other and the importance of drawing on the experiences, expertise and support of mentors across the region.
The agreed priorities for Pacific Parliaments are:
- Mentoring between women parliamentarians, both within the Pacific and with Australian and New Zealand parliamentarians.
- Creating an online networking platform, open to parliamentarians and parliamentary staff, to facilitate discussion, requests for data and information. The website will host databanks of draft and enacted legislation across the Pacific that relates to gender equality and gender mainstreaming, speeches made by parliamentarians on gender equality issues, alerts on forthcoming debates, links to other parliamentary resources on gender equality, including Pacific Women in Politics (www.pacwip.org) and iKNOW politics (www.iknowpolitics.org), and will work with the parliamentary libraries of Australia and New Zealand.
- Ensuring that where information technology infrastructure requires further development, there are alternative mechanisms to keep parliamentarians connected and informed.
- Further developing the twinning programs (Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships) between Pacific Island parliaments, Australian state, territory and federal parliaments, and the New Zealand Parliament, ensuring a gender balance in all twinning delegations and activities.
- Extending the Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships network to include countries that are not part of the Commonwealth (e.g. Marshall Islands, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia).
- Organising regional and in-country workshops, training and seminars for parliamentarians and parliamentary staff on gender analysis, gender equality laws, gender budgeting, improving the effectiveness of committee work within a cultural context, and ensuring parliamentary accountability. Considering also the possibilities for the work of the Centre for Democratic Institutions to be extended to countries beyond the current Melanesian focus.
- Creating a cross-party parliamentary body (a committee, a focal network of members across all committees) that is responsible for ensuring the parliament raises gender equality issues and legislation. The body must include men.
- Supporting male champions of gender equality by involving them in this project, training them on gender equality in terms that they can relate to and holding them accountable for gender equality outcomes.
- Using alternative media sources and outlets to promote the work of women in parliament, including through impartial parliamentary news services.
- Requiring all countries, including Australia and New Zealand, to report on their progress in achieving the outcomes of the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum Declaration on Gender Equality, and that the reports be debated in parliament and, in doing so, seek a relationship with the Pacific Islands Forum.
- Facilitating women parliamentarians’ joint submission to the Pacific Plan Review and the engagement of women in each country parliaments’ report.
- Organising a forum every year, with the next one in the Pacific, to sustain the networks and the momentum.
10 February 2013