Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development 2018

29 March 2018

Agenda Item 2, CSO Intervention

Sarankhukhuu Sharavdorj, MONFEMNET, Mongolia

Women’s human rights are crucial to achieving Agenda 2030 and sustainable development. The very principles that human rights are indivisible and interconnected must be the foundational guidelines for SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) monitoring and implementation. Asia-Pacific women, in all their diversity, understand that the patriarchy manifested in fundamentalism, neoliberal globalisation, conflicts, and militarism is the structural driver of deepening inequalities, and undermines women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Climate change, for instance, is a result of deliberate political and economic decisions of a powerful few countries and large corporations, and disproportionately affects women and girls negatively. Women and girls are more likely to die in natural and climate disasters. Loss of livelihood leaves affected communities with their only option to migrate, resulting in women working in informal, exploitative, unregulated labour sectors, and significantly eliminating women’s access to public and quality health care systems. Woman are put in a high risk for trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, and are left with little access to justice systems.  

We acknowledge the efforts made by Member States. However, as heard in many of round-tables yesterday, there is still a wide gap in ensuring women’s human rights across and between all of the goals. We support the strengthening of local communities’ control and access over their natural resources, knowledge and energy systems. Women, especially indigenous women, have been the keeper of their communities’ resources and have been for centuries. We support the idea of an investment in the commons – in public transportation, public green space, public housing, in water, in electricity – designed to deliver both climate and gender impact. We believe in supporting small food producers in their agroecology farming practices, and small medium enterprises – in which women are more likely to be found.

What is most significantly requested from Member States is to deliver the aspirations of Agenda 2030, a foundational shift. To boldly understand and claim that to live free from discrimination and violence is a basic human right; that poverty is a systematic denial of all human rights; education, health care, clean water and sanitation are not only public goods but basic human rights; cooperation between countries is an international human rights obligation. And that human rights cannot exist in isolation, they are indivisible.

Thank you.

Helen Hakena, Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA), Papua New Guinea

Chair, my name is Helen Hakena, and I am speaking on behalf of the women’s constituency of the Asia Pacific CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM).

The scenario we heard in the panel just now, as pointed out by my colleague on the panel, are in fact not only a scenario for many communities in this region. Across the region, communities have been and are still suffering the impact of environmental destruction and degradation – from death and diseases, to violence and conflict, and to loss of livelihood.

I myself is from one of those communities. I am from Bougainville, an island that’s a little larger than Cyprus, and is an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea that suffered a 20-year war when one of the world’s largest open pit mines, Panguna, destroyed our rivers, our land, environment and our communities. Even though the mines and logging on our island produced hundreds of millions of dollars in profit, our island did not become prosperous. Together, the mine and the war, led to terrible maternal and child health outcomes, militarized communities. Today, 28 years later, the effect of the mining and the war remains. All these harms to the communities were possible through the partnership between the government, foreign investors and large companies. If this is what ‘partnership for development’ means, something is seriously wrong and we must challenge that notion of ‘development’ and ‘partnership’.

For me, the most important partnership is the partnership with the community. The most essential ingredient of any partnership is the consent, engagement and trust of the people. Genuine partnerships only exist and can work where we share solidarity – shared objectives and vision. Partners that come in for other reasons – to make money, to exploit resources, to gain power can not be at the heart of the partnership.

In my community we are building solidarity amongst women, amongst men and young people, amongst the displaced people and the communities they are settled to, and amongst government leaders. When our people know what they want many others can support us in solidarity – those who want the best for our community while respecting what we want – whether they be other governments (for example several countries who are helping us rebuild our community center after it was burnt down and helping with renewable energies); based on the principle of global solidarity as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; or the social enterprises that want to support the models we have selected – whether that be exporting some of the products we make. We want to enter into partnership where the knowledge we have developed – whether that be the knowledge of using coconut oil to run combustion engines or the knowledge of our medicinal herbs – is used in solidarity for the benefit of our people and the planet (without being stolen from us through intellectual property practices); and the power to make decisions over our collective resources stays with the people.   

We know that it would take a courage for governments to shift from the dominant model of partnership, which is heavily reliant on large corporations and business sectors, to an accountable public-public partnership model. However this is possible and we want you, member states, to know that you have our support to make the SDGs partnership accountable to the peoples and deliver Development Justice.