Advancement of Women
- Conflict Prevention
- Peace and Security
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY – Third Committee
Statement by the Hon Dr Sharman Stone, MP
Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Mr Chair
Nearly 20 years ago, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action imagined a world where each woman and girl could exercise her freedoms and choices, and realise all her rights. As the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women approaches, which will review progress against the Beijing Declaration, it is clear that while much progress has been made, more work needs to be done.
Protecting women from violence, promoting women's economic empowerment and supporting women's leadership are priority areas for Australia, both domestically and internationally. Reflecting this commitment, Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls advocates internationally to promote gender equality, including the equal participation of women in leadership positions, in the economy and in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
Empowering women means the full and effective participation of all women in political, economic and social affairs. Australia was proud to be a part of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and to support its outcome document, which committed to the empowerment of indigenous women and to intensify efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against indigenous women and girls.
Women and girls often bear the brunt of increasingly violent conflict and humanitarian crises around the world. Australia is deeply committed to implementing the United Nations Women, Peace and Security agenda. We recently released the first Progress Report against our National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012-–2018 which demonstrates that we are tracking well against our commitments to ensure better outcomes for women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings.
However, there is much more that still needs to be done. Sexual violence in situations of armed violence targets the most vulnerable members of society, and has dramatic and lasting effects on communities. Australia is committed to raising awareness of sexual violence and helping to ensure that crimes of sexual violence are prosecuted and that support services are provided to those affected. That is why Australia's Foreign Minister is a proud Champion of the UK's Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, and we are pleased that both our Ambassador for Women and Girls and the Chief of the Australian Army were able to address this year's ground breaking Global Summit.
Sexual violence does not only occur in conflict situations, of course it is prevalent in all countries including Australia. Domestically, Australia is working to implement our National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2012-2022. The National Plan brings together the efforts of governments across Australia to make a real and sustained reduction in the levels of violence against women.
The world has come a long way in advancing women's sexual and reproductive health and rights globally – we must not allow these rights to be eroded. Australia has reaffirmed its commitment to seeing the International Conference for Population and Development Programme of Action implemented in full. Australia has also been working with the United Nations Population Fund to address women's lack of access to comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services, affordable family planning, and sexuality education.
Gender inequality undermines economic growth, human development and poverty reduction. It is estimated that limits on women's participation in the workforce costs the Asia-Pacific region an estimated $89 billion every year.
Promoting women's economic empowerment is central to Australia's aid program. Approximately $2 billion of funding, this financial year, will go to initiatives where gender equality is a significant objective. Through our new aid policy, at least 80 per cent of all development activities regardless of their objectives will effectively address gender issues in their implementation.
Women in decision-making, leadership and peace building positions benefit all in society. However, globally women are politically underrepresented, holding only 21 per cent of parliamentary seats in single or lower houses world-wide. This situation is worse in the Pacific, where women only hold 5 per cent of parliamentary seats.
Australia actively promotes women's leadership. Our Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative is a $320 million project aimed at enabling 14 Pacific nations to improve political, social and economic opportunities for women. In Indonesia, Australia has committed $60 million to the Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction Program, which supports partnerships between the community, government and private sector to develop solutions to challenges facing women.
Mr Chair, as the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action approaches, it remains clear that there is still much more work to be done for the advancement of women. Promoting gender equality and women's empowerment is central to Australia's domestic and international interests. Australia is determined to ensure that gender equality and women's empowerment are central to the post-2015 development agenda and at the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.