OPINION: We must do more for our women and girls
On the occasion of UN Day, Osnat Lubrani, Resident Coordinator for the UN in the Pacific, reflects on the role the UN can play as a partner for Pacific, connecting more closely with countries and communities towards fair and sustainable development in the region.
SUVA, Fiji-OCTOBER 31: 6.24PM (UN Media): Over recent months the UN has engaged in a rich and dynamic consultative process to shape the future vision and priorities of the UN’s Pacific Strategy.
I have had the pleasure to travel to Tonga, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Vanuatu, and soon depart for Tuvalu. Our consultations will culminate in Fiji, which serves as the largest regional hub for the UN, where I look forward to discussing future UN support to advance Fiji’s national priorities, and more broadly, our support for the region, under the UN Pacific Strategy.
My fellow UN Resident Coordinator, Lizbeth Cullity, based in Samoa has undertaken consultations in Samoa, Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue.
In line with our commitment to ensure full country ownership, our consultations involved a wide spectrum of society, from Prime Ministers and Presidents, to leaders in civil society, teachers, doctors, church, women leaders, school children, to name a few. In some countries we travelled away from capitals to visit remote islands.
Listening to community leaders, women and youth in villages in Abaiang atoll in Kiribati or Radeaekoa community on Langalanga Lagoon in Malaita province of Solomon Islands, was especially rewarding.
We heard positive and constructive feedback on the UN’s support to date, whether in improving water and sanitation in schools, strengthening delivery of health services, increasing financial and economic empowerment of women market vendors, or tackling food security challenges related to the impacts of climate change.
While every country’s problems are unique – many common themes were shared throughout our consultations.
We must do more for our women and girls as well as our youth to thrive.
We cannot underestimate the impacts of climate change and weather-related events on development in the region.
We need to work together to ensure the benefits of development are shared more equitably and no one is left behind.
We need stronger institutions to support open democracy, and increased respect for human rights and the rule of law.
It is clear from our discussions that progress is being made in many of these areas and governments are committed and better organised to deliver economic and social change for citizens, but there is much more to do.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – agreed to in 2015 by all 193 UN member states – offer a powerful framework for all countries to track and monitor their development and progress towards 17 ambitious goals. The goals if achieved by 2030 will secure a better future for the planet, people, peace, partnership and prosperity.
The SDGs will be at the centre of the UN’s work in the Pacific region and our Pacific Strategy will demonstrate our commitment to helping all Pacific Islands Countries achieve the Goals by 2030.
For me, the beauty of the SDGs is in their universality and optimism – they are intended to be applied both in developed and developing countries. We are all in it together and that’s a good thing.
Also inherent in the SDGs, is the idea of inclusive development – an ideal at the heart of the UN’s work, and will be the central pillar of our Pacific Strategy. We must do what we can to ensure all voices are heard and work to ensure that services and assistance reaches those who are marginalised – women, the elderly, disabled persons, ethnic and/or religious minorities and migrants for instance.
The UN is committed to supporting work to strengthen institutions and equitable access to them, improve human rights, and increase access to opportunities for marginalised groups – many of those I have talked to recently tell me that this is what the UN does best. We will listen to that feedback, and we will do more.
I am encouraged by the general organisation and commitment countries are displaying around their own development plans and priorities. All countries we have visited have or are developing national development plans, and all have embarked on work to localize the 2030 Agenda by aligning the SDGs to the objectives and priorities outlined in these plans.
The Pacific Strategy process is a transformative one – and we are challenging ourselves to work differently.
To be a genuine partner, the UN needs to work in a way that acknowledges the best ways to get things done in the Pacific, and rather than trying to do everything – we need to work out what we are best at, where we can genuinely help, and what is best left to others.
We recognize the UN’s contributions can yield the best positive impact through genuine and durable partnerships with Governments as well as with civil society, the private sector, regional organizations, and other development partners.
For a large bureaucratic organisation, such as the UN, change is not easy.
But, I can say that UN agencies are wholeheartedly committed to making the UN an effective partner for the Pacific – we are doing this by streamlining our operations in country and maintaining strong UN Joint Presence Offices to serve as a one-stop UN shop, if you will, where governments, partners and citizens can access information and support in a coordinated way.
Finally, thank you to all those who have taken part in our consultations around the region.
Meeting you, hearing your views, listening to your hopes and sharing your dedication to the Pacific’s cause is really a privilege, and your voices will be at the heart of our Pacific Strategy.
While our path to the achievement of the SDGs in 2030 is not always easy, I am always inspired by the communities, the mums and daughters, fathers and sons and leaders of the Pacific and feel confident about our progress.
On UN day, I reiterate our commitment to this diverse and inspiring region, and our dedication to working with all countries, in new and inclusive ways to achieve prosperity for all.
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