Wednesday, 17 November 2010 6:26 AM

Reference Group Meets to Address Sexual and Gender-Based

Press Statement - 16 November 2010 - The first meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Reference Group to Address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) was held on 16 November 2010 at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva.

The Reference Group to Address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence was established following a recommendation from the 2010 Forum Regional Security Committee meeting to assist the Forum Secretariat and support national efforts in taking forward a mandate from Forum Leaders in 2009 on this issue.

At their 2009 meeting, Forum Leaders noted that sexual and gender-based violence is a risk to human security and a potential destabilising factor for communities and societies alike. Leaders also acknowledged that SGBV remained pervasive across the Pacific, even though its prevalence often went underreported, and urged the recognition of its prevalence in the Pacific at all levels of community, whether in the domestic context or during conflict and post conflict situations.

The Reference Group extensively discussed issues pertaining to SGBV including existing work to address the issue by the different agencies across the Pacific. The Reference Group discussed and confirmed its Terms of Reference which include identifying, assessing and recommending activities , policies and legislation (including in the long term) to address existing and potential contributing factors to sexual and gender based violence.

Director Teurakai Ukenio of the Community Development and Social Services Division of the Ministry of Internal & Social Affairs, Kiribati, welcomed the initiative saying his participation was "a clear demonstration of the Kiribati Governments commitment to addressing sexual and gender based violence". The Director also said "the issues highlighted in discussions included the importance of Pacific Islands Forum Governments' accountability to implement national and international commitments to gender equality and human rights. The Reference Group also noted the importance of tracking and coordinating government budgetary allocations and aid to address SGBV, to ensure the most strategic and effective implementation of efforts to eliminate violence against women and children."

The Reference Group comprises Ms Ethel Sigimanu, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry for Women, Youth and Children's Affairs, Solomon Islands; Mr Teurakai Ukenio, Acting Director Community Development & Social Services Division, Ministry of Internal & Social Affairs, Kiribati; Commander Chris Kelley, Commander, Royal Tonga Police, Tonga; Ms Elizabeth Cox, Regional Director, UNIFEM Pacific; Mrs Fekitamoeloa K. 'Utoikamanu, Deputy Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Community; and Ms Shamima Ali, Director, Fiji Women's Crisis Centre.

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