In a statement, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has welcomed the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Inquiry into the human rights of women and girls in the Pacific
Over recent decades, Australia’s development program has effectively supported efforts to advance the rights of women and girls in collaboration with its Pacific partners.
Programs such as Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (now “Pacific Women Lead”) have made a significant and valuable investment towards gender equality in the region. However, as the Committee’s report rightly concludes, there is clearly much more work to be done and the role of civil society in this effort has been underutilised. The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have gendered impacts, and the needs of women and girls are too often overlooked in emergency responses and disaster management.
The Committee’s report clearly recognises that Pacific women and organisations are best placed to ensure that responses to crises (be it a pandemic, economic downturn, or natural disaster) respond to the particular experiences of women and girls and are tailored to the capacities and needs of local communities.
As the Committee has reported, the work of civil society groups in the Pacific is indeed “tireless and demanding”. The Australia Government should increase its support to local organisations who are advancing the rights of women and girls through both relevant and targeted capacity building, as well as longer-term funding arrangements (Recommendations 2, 10 and 11).
ACFID stands ready to support increased government efforts to advance the localisation agenda, which shifts resources and decision-making power to local organisations which have deep and longstanding connections with the communities in which they work.
As a step on this journey, ACFID welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that the Australian Government publish assessments of its progress on supporting capacity building for local organisations, including data on the proportion of funding provided to local organisations directly, as well as through intermediaries (Recommendation 7).
ACFID also welcomes the Committee’s recommendations that the Australian Government consider extending partnerships with Pacific civil society (Recommendation 9), institute longer-term funding cycles (of at least five years) for official development assistance (Recommendation 10), and improve the transparency and ease of access to data for monitoring, evaluation and responding of development programs, including gender equality and women’s empowerment activities in the Pacific (Recommendation 13).