Regional Civil Society Groups get Permanent Space at Forum Economic Ministers Meeting

Emmeline Siale Ilolahia and Mosese Masese as Chair and Co-chair of the CSO Dialogue at FEMM

11 May 2019. Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) Suva, Fiji. Samoa Government Press Release by Renate Rivers.  Civil Society Organisations are delighted with being given a permanent space at the annual Forum Economic Ministers Meeting.

Mosese Masese, Co-Chair of CSO Dialogue to FEMM, said they received resounding support in their request to be a permanent part of the FEMM dialogue.

“One of the reasons we asked for this permanent space is AGENDA 2030, which is geared towards achieving the seventeen sustainable development goals, and in those goals with 169 targets, it puts people at the centre stage.

“CSOs are the voice of the people. We strive in our action for communities to live happily and in dignity and with our affiliates from youth clubs, women’s clubs- right from the grassroots.
“Our mandate and what we came here to say to leaders is, to effectively count the cost, it is the people you have to talk to, and if it’s the people you have to talk to, it’s the CSOs that reads between the lines.”

The group also sought FEMM support to update studies on Violence Against Women and Girls within the region, highlighting the importance of knowing the economic costs associated with violence.

Voices of civil society will also be represented in the governance, disbursement and monitoring of funds under the community grants stream of the proposed Pacific Resilience Facility.
This will see the inclusion of a social accountability mechanism within the Facility, ensuring all funds directly benefit island communities. Also promised is a gender responsive design to include prevention of, and protection from all forms of violence against women and girls. Essential services including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights and support must also be a part of building up a resilient Pacific.

CSO Dialogue Chair, Emmeline Siale Ilolahia says there is a special significance to inclusion of a CSO voice at the initial, design stages of FEMM initiatives, and the proposed facility is no exception.

“We would like to see community interests reflected in the design and implementation, especially in relation to gender and people with disabilities.”

The safety of women and girls in disaster response efforts becomes less challenging when it’s part of disaster preparedness work, she says.
“We highlighted that in the event of a natural disaster, when we put everyone in one evacuation centre, there’s still the issue of violence against women and girls.”

Also on the civil society agenda, their biggest ask of FEMM was an ambitious request for a ten year moratorium on Seabed Mining.

“There’s a lot of vested interest in our oceans. People from outside are looking at the sea minerals and they want to harvest it, process it,” says Ilolahia.

“This is an area that we have not had enough information on. We are asking for an independent study because the only information available to our countries is coming from companies with vested interests in mining.”

The response from FEMM was lukewarm, with Ministers asserting Seabed mining is a sovereign issue to be decided upon by individual countries. FEMM only went as far as acknowledging the intention of CSOs to undertake an independent feasibility study in collaboration with relevant partners, on the impacts of seabed mining and exploration.

The study would provide evidence-based information to inform policy decisions of countries.