Summit Addresses a Growing Array of Challenges Facing Pacific Women


Delivered by Hon Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Social Development and Disability Issues and Associate Minister for Pacific Peoples and Arts, Culture and Heritage

E mua’i fa’atalofa atu:
I lau Afioga le Palemia o Samoa, Lau Susuga Dr Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi,
Lau Afioga le Sui Palemia o Samoa, Lau Afioga Fiame Naomi Mata’afa,
Lau Afioga Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor,
Lau Afioga I le Komesina Sili o Niu Sila Trevor Matheson,
Ma le pa’ia ma le mamalu i Afioga i ta’ita’i ma sui o malo ma sui o matagaluega ‘ese’ese o le pasefika
Malo le soifua maua ma le lagi e mama.
O ou sā ma ou mamalu e le gafataulimaina e lo’u tagata.
Ae ta’oto ia fa’agalu e le fati ou pa’ia, aua o pa’ia mai le amataga e o’o atu I le gata’aga.

Firstly I would like recognise the presence of the Honourable Prime Minister of Samoa, Lau Susuga Dr. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Lau Afioga Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the Honourable Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Simona Marinescu [pron: Marinescoo], UN Resident Coordinator, New Zealand High Commissioner, His Excellency Dr Trevor Matheson and all of the dignitaries and guests from our Blue Pacific and beyond. Greetings to you all.

It is a privilege to co-host this event in partnership with Samoa in this beautiful Pacific capital. I am honoured to be speaking on behalf of New Zealand’s Minister of Defence, Hon Ron Mark, a committed advocate for the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

New Zealand has a real desire to lead and improve in the field of Women, Peace and Security. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our Minister of Defence, Ron Mark, in entrenching New Zealand’s commitment to promoting Women Peace and Security throughout the Defence Force ¬- from the roles that we pursue in international deployments, to our leadership accountabilities, to our Defence Force recruitment processes and culture.

I would like to welcome the diverse range of delegates here today from 24 different countries, 16 of which are Pacific Island countries. I would also like to acknowledge the Pacific Island Forum held recently. The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is grateful to Tuvalu for hosting and it’s great to see all those present that participated. We have distinguished representatives from civil organisations, police, defence forces (armies, navies, air force and police), academia, and government departments. This speaks to the importance of Women, Peace and Security not only as a global concern, but as a critical regional priority.

We are all making progress in this area. I look forward to exploring these successes and learnings as we consider how best to ensure meaningful participation and representation of women at all levels of peace and security processes, as well as how to promote and protect women’s rights more broadly. Over the next two days we will look to our past and present in order to inform our future; share our experiences and stories, and learn with and from each other.

Today I want to share with you New Zealand’s perspectives on the Women, Peace and Security agenda enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 1325. I will start with the global agenda, touch on Pacific regional angles, and finish with New Zealand’s approach to this issue.

The Global Women, Peace and Security Agenda

The Women, Peace and Security agenda is well recognised as being critical to positive peace and security outcomes. New Zealand strongly believes that this work is most effectively progressed together, through a collaborative and multilateral approach.

This year we all celebrate the twentieth anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security – the founding Resolution of the global Women, Peace and Security agenda. The Resolution addresses a host of issues and challenges faced by women and girls during and after conflict. It is the first of its kind to focus on issues like the disproportionate effects of conflict on women.

The Resolution also recognises that inclusion and participation of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding are proven solutions, and that women should be active – and have agency – in building and maintaining peace and security.

New Zealand wholeheartedly supports Resolution 1325 and the values and concepts it promotes. New Zealand also had the privilege of being on the Security Council for the adoption of Resolution 2242 in 2015, which called for a doubling of the number of women in uniformed components of peace operations by 2028.

United Nations peacekeeping is a focal point for Women, Peace and Security implementation. We have seen some incremental progress towards achieving an increase in the participation of women in UN peacekeeping forces. The UN’s target of 16% women is creating results: in 2018, 48 troop contributing countries were meeting that target, compared to only 22 countries a year before.

Women, Peace and Security in the Pacific

I will now move us closer to home, to focus on the Pacific region. Pacific prosperity and security is of fundamental importance to New Zealand. New Zealand and the Pacific are joined by history, geography, politics, shared interests, demographic, or many of us also – geneology. The region faces a growing array of challenges, including climate change, economic fragility and pressing human development issues. Gender inequality is one of those significant human development issues, and violence against women is considered to be one of the region’s largest human security challenges.

The Pacific Reset has responded to this with a lift in New Zealand’s strategic ambition and investment in the Pacific, emphasising what we are doing in the region, as well as how we operate. Our goal is a stable, prosperous and resilient Pacific for us all.

At the heart of the Reset is a commitment to build deeper partnerships with Pacific Island countries. This event today is an example of that partnership in action. Our presence here today is thanks to a strong and productive working relationship between Samoa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence.

There is much more to be done. Our lift in effort began as the Pacific Reset. We are now working to ensure that this heightened tempo becomes the new normal for New Zealand’s Pacific engagement. Progressing the Women, Peace and Security agenda in our region will help us achieve that objective.

New Zealand supports the Pacific Islands Forum vision of gender equality as highlighted in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, as well as the commitments made in the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration.

We are also committed to the Boe Declaration on Regional Security [pronounced ‘Boy’ Declaration], its expanded concept of security and prioritisation of non-traditional challenges such as human security. And we are committed to implementing the Boe Declaration through the Action Plan, endorsed by our Leaders at their fiftieth Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Funafuti, Tuvalu last week.

It is important to acknowledge that Women, Peace and Security is not a new issue for our region – this Summit today represents the continuation of a conversation that has been in train for some years. A regional Working Group developed the Pacific Regional Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security in 2012. That Action Plan expired in 2015. We look forward to hearing from Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, on the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s plans for the region and from all of you here today on what practical steps could be taken to progress this work in the region.

I know Minister Mark met with you, Dame Meg, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June, and I understand that you discussed our shared commitment to the Pacific and Women, Peace and Security.

New Zealand Police have been working to promote consideration of gender in policing through all of their Development Aid Programmes across the Pacific, supporting Family and Sexual Violence courses, incorporating gender into its work streams, and developing Gender Strategic Plans.

And Pacific police services have been progressing this agenda through the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police organisation and the Women’s Advisory Network, which New Zealand has supported since it was established in 2003. This network supports women in policing to realise their potential through strong networks and to provide advice to Chiefs on issues facing women in their organisations. I wish to acknowledge representatives of the Network here today, some of whom will share their expertise with us this week.

We have seen important contributions to Women, Peace and Security from our Pacific partners already. The Republic of Fiji Military Forces have established a Women Peace and Security Committee and gathered key male advocates to lead Fiji military-wide gender awareness training. Papua New Guinea Police and Defence Forces have worked hand in hand to deliver gender training. Tonga’s Police Force is looking to recruit 50 percent women and has a female Deputy Police Commissioner. His Majesty’s Armed Forces are also working with the Nevada National Guard to support the development of a Tongan National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. And Samoa, our generous host today, has an impressive array of senior female leaders present in this room, ranging from civilians to police, to of course the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Fiame Mata’afa.

I look forward to joining New Zealand’s Vice Chief of Defence Force, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, when he launches the Pacific Defence Gender Network at the welcome event this evening at our High Commissioner’s Residence. The Network will promote gender equality across our regional defence forces, working in parallel with the Pacific Island Chiefs of Police Women’s Advisory Network.

I believe that the Pacific Defence Gender Network will enable us to share lessons that we have learned from these initiatives and activities, so that our individual successes form part of a greater, regional effort.

New Zealand’s approach to Women, Peace and Security

I now want to talk about New Zealand’s approach to these issues. New Zealand has a proud history of female leadership. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is our third woman Prime Minister. Women now make up 40 percent of our Members of Parliament, and 50 percent of our Government Chief Executives.

We have made progress towards increasing the involvement of women in the Defence Force but we still have a long way to go. We recognise that this shift will require systematic changes in behaviour, culture, values and mind-sets. With that in mind, the New Zealand Defence Force has mainstreamed gender equality, aiming to have women representatives in all trades, ranks and in strategic decision making roles; targeting culture and striving for a safe, respectful and inclusive environment, and ensuring that all systems, policies and processes are free from gender bias. Our capable and experienced female Defence staff will speak to specific initiatives and case studies this week.

However, I will say that one of the best methods for dispelling myths, embedding the empowerment of women and making real strides towards progress is to create pathways for women into influential leadership positions. I’m proud that women are rising up the ranks in New Zealand’s Defence Force and are now commanding our ships, piloting our aircraft, leading their trades, and representing New Zealand in leadership appointments across the globe.

We have seen first-hand how the deployment of these highly-skilled women leaders can break down some of the systemic and long-held prejudices that can occur within militaries, and within host countries. New Zealand has deployed women into some of the most dangerous zones on the planet – deploying with the United Nations to the South Sudan, the Israeli borders, and the deepest corners of Mali.

We also recognised that our Special Forces did not have access to large sections of the population due to cultural barriers. So we established a Female Engagement Team to work alongside our Special Forces operatives. The Female Engagement Team is a bespoke and highly-trained unit, designed to improve our access by engaging with local women and adolescents. This enhances the cultural knowledge of our deployed forces, and provides a nuanced understanding of specific gender issues in the area of operations.

The New Zealand government also agreed in June that our Defence Force should conduct its first wholly Women, Peace and Security – focused deployment with NATO in Afghanistan.

These changes in how we deploy and engage women have been underpinned by an increased focus on training, driven by the principles captured in our National Action Plan. This Plan will be refreshed next year, and I’m sure will draw heavily on the conversations we will have over the next few days. The National Action Plan codifies our whole-of-government approach to:

• Creating and maintaining political pressure in international fora to ensure women’s involvement in decision making within conflict and post-conflict situations.
• Promoting New Zealand women as mediators and negotiators in international forums.
• Increasing the number of New Zealand women deployed in police and military roles in UN-mandated peacekeeping missions.
• Improving the capability of peacekeeping missions to respond to women’s needs.
• Ensuring gender analysis informs New Zealand’s peace and support resources, and development assistance to countries affected by conflict; and
• Promoting efforts to combat sexual violence, intimate partner violence and violence against women in conflict affected countries where we have a development programme or post.

These goals are based on a wealth of evidence that implementing Women, Peace and Security agenda works. That women are more likely to report instances of gender-based violence to female officers. That higher levels of gender equality are associated with a lower propensity for conflict, both within and between states. That when women participate in peace processes the resulting agreement is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years.

The involvement of women and acknowledging their standing and their authority was key to the successful brokering of a peace agreement by New Zealand in Bougainville when fourteen / fifteen previous attempts had failed – an agreement which still holds today.

We recognise the value and the requirement to work with others to achieve these goals. Together, we can create and maintain political pressure in international fora, promote women in military leadership throughout peacekeeping missions, and increase the number of deployed women.

It is also important to celebrate individual successes. New Zealand Colonel Helen Cooper, who will present tomorrow, is currently serving as first-ever female President of the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres in the Association’s 24-year history. Leveraging these training centres to promote and educate the role of women within peacekeeping operations has been a key focus of her Presidency.

Closing remarks

Thank you all for the opportunity to speak today and for your collective commitment to this important cause.

Our Minister of Defence, Ron Mark, is adamant that women play a role men cannot play, that women bring both strategic and tactical strengths into play in a way which enhances the opportunities for mission success and the government supports this sentiment.

The role of women in preventing conflict, safeguarding civilians, and building peace is no longer a side-line issue. We all recognise the strategic and social imperative of implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the evidence that increasing women’s participation leads to better security outcomes.

I hope that this Summit will create momentum and contribute richness and diversity to regional and global discourses on these issues. I encourage you to engage with the expertise in this room to focus on tangible actions or measures that might help to progress this work in our region.

There is a Samoan proverb I would like to leave with you today: ‘E au le ina’ilau a tamaita’i’. Women are great achievers. Whatever task we set our minds to, we complete. Our boat requires work from many hands. No one person can do the work ahead. So let us walk hand in hand.

In this spirit, I want to emphasise the importance of our male advocates, including those in the room today. Male advocates play a critical role in progressing our shared objectives.

I believe that only through embracing our shared commitments to gender equality, and the Blue Pacific concept of pursing collective solutions to shared challenges can we progress this important work in the region – working together in this way we will all become stronger and more resilient.

Ia manuia le tatou fonotaga (May the conference go well)
Fa’afetai mo lo’u avanoa (Thank you for this opportunity)
Soifua, ma ia manuia (Farewell and blessings)