Ensure the Pacific voice is heard in the global development agenda: UNFPA urges leaders

14 August 2013

August 14, Suva (UNFPA) - If the voice of the Pacific is absent from the new global development agenda to be implemented from 2015 on, that plan will be less effective, less credible and less relevant, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Kate Gilmore told legislators and senior policy makers Tuesday.

Urging participants at the Pacific Conference of Parliamentarians for Advocacy on ICPD beyond 2014, Ms Gilmore reminded the group that there was only one purpose of sustainable development: to uphold the inherent dignity of people.

Ms Gilmore acknowledged that while the Pacific region may be at the frontline of emerging issues in these uncertain times, it is also by default a repository of innovation and knowledge from which the world can and must learn.

 

Ms Gilmore reminded participants that any development agenda worthy of its name has but one purpose: to uphold the inherent dignity of people, warning against development agenda that fail to bridge the gap between rich and poor; which broaden division between the powerful and the powerless; which exclude young people; or ignore the specificities of women's experience.

Speaking of communal resilience to external challenges such as the impacts of climate change, Ms Gilmore said effective communal responses can be strengthened if it is built first and foremost on a foundation of resilient individuals.

"The resilient person is equipped through education, made safe from violence and exploitation thorough the rule of law, entitled to active participation in decision-making through parliamentary democracies, empowered through information and upheld in their physical and mental integrity through fulfillment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights," she said.

"That is the foundational proposition of the Cairo Plan of Action for Population and Development endorse by countries all over the Pacific - that a person enabled and supported to live in dignity is one whose resources, competencies, creativity and capacity are more fully available to their communities so that - as community members - they are part of solutions to challenges rather than part of the challenge to which some governments feel there is no solution."

Ms Gilmore emphasized that a people-centred development agenda must engage people's mentality, spirituality, physicality and sexuality - the unique dimensions of human beings.

"The new development agenda must engage these human dimensions with creativity: our mentality must be nurtured and strengthened through education and exercised well in productive dignifying employment," Ms Gilmore said.

"Our spirituality must be fostered through ethical leadership and through respect for freedoms of belief and expression, in all our diversities. Our physicality must be protected by securities of peace, food and health. Our sexuality must be turned from a source of shame and blame to a cause for respect, through investment in services to support our sexual and reproductive health.

"These aspects of the human condition must be cared for, upheld, invested in through the new development agenda. It happens too that this would then better equip our peoples, and outfit our communities, with exactly what they need to be resilient in the face of the changes they face, whether it be change from climate instability, economic volatility or political uncertainty."

Participants were reminded of the centrality of the young person whose future they were discussing. Speaking of the numerous international and regional processes which legislators and policy makers needed to wade through as global conversations intensify towards the formulation of the post-2015development agenda, Ms Gilmore said young people's voice was critical, particularly adolescents'.

"It is their future that we are deciding when we talk about development and it is their future that is the world's future... but it is possible to put the challenge in a most simple form let us understand that tomorrow is today aged 10 and it's a girl: if we change the life of that 10-year-old girl, we will change the world," Ms Gilmore said.

Ms Gilmore spoke of the importance of "strong and committed community and political leadership" to drive appropriate multi-sectoral responses. She urged strong and genuine partnerships "across our differences, in all our diversity and using our pluralism as our strength".

"For the United Nations Population Fund, the facilitation of this meeting's exchange of insights, of hopes and of aspiration is central to our Pacific contribution and thus also key to our hopes for the post-2015 development agenda. For, when at the end of 2015, the current MDGs have run their initial course, there will be much work to be done still," she said.

Ms Gilmore said it was critical that the voice of the Pacific be joined to the global conversations about the future of development, discussions that will determine the future direction and priorities for the coming decades' sustainable and inclusive development.

"The United Nations Population Fund, with its offices and presence in more than 140 countries, is working around the world, in partnership with the community of nations, to ensure that the future development agenda is derived from powerful, inclusive and regionally relevant conversations," Ms Gilmore said.

"This is the only way a platform of intelligence can be formed robust enough to support a global development agenda for 2016 and beyond that is relevant, inclusive and effective. Without the voices of the Pacific Islands active in that global articulation, the post-2015 agenda will be less effective, less credible and less relevant and we cannot afford that.

"In the decades ahead, the vibrancy and the specificities of the Pacific Island communities will be essential to the integrity of the global development agenda locally and more broadly. And now is the time for us to secure that integrity."

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