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Speech at the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women Side event on the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development

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Speaker: Penny Williams, Australia's Global Ambassador for Women

Co-hosted by the US and ROK

Speech by Penny Williams, Australia's Global Ambassador for Women, E&OE

Ambassador Verveer, Minister Kum-Lae Kim, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to take part in this discussion about the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development.

May I start by commending the US, Korea, OECD Gendernet and UN Women for taking the initiative to develop this document.

The Action Plan strengthens and gives new focus to the work that we, as gender advocates, are already doing.

Australia welcomes the strong emphasis in the Busan outcome document, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, on achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women through development programs grounded in country priorities.

In discussions towards the new Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation over the coming months, we will be working to ensure that the targets and indicators established to promote accountability for the Busan commitments reflect gender considerations.

As a complement to the Busan outcomes document, the Action Plan will assist in intensifying and accelerating efforts to promote gender equality and women's empowerment; to improve development outcomes; and to bring us closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Partners working to implement the Action Plan will share knowledge and develop new approaches at a country-level to integrate gender within strategies for promoting development effectiveness.

I would like to discuss the ways in which the Action Plan applies to the work that Australia is delivering through our development assistance.

The Action Plan is structured around three key areas: improving sex disaggregated data; setting targets for gender equality work; and ensuring gender is considered as part of all aspects of development.

1. Building the evidence base

Australia recognizes the importance of strong sex-disaggregated data to be able to track outcomes for men and women and to deliver evidence based policy.

We are working with governments, civil society, regional organizations and the United Nations to improve data on the prevalence rates of violence against women in the Pacific. Australia has provided support for the conduct of prevalence studies, using the WHO methodology, in Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

These studies are helping to raise awareness of women's experience of violence, and are also forming a strong basis for policy making in each of these countries to respond to and prevent violence against women.

The Governments of Solomon Islands and Kiribati have each developed a national policy and national action plan on responding to violence against women. These plans demonstrate the Governments' commitments to addressing this issue; will assist in donor coordination – and directly demonstrate the value of sex-disaggregated data in informing policy.

Another key aspect of sex-disaggregated data in the Action Plan is the Evidence and Data on Gender Equality – or 'EDGE' – program. Australia will contribute AUD1.5 million over three years to support the program. We see it as making a valuable contribution to improving gender data, particularly in the areas of education, employment and entrepreneurship. This is significant as these are key issues for supporting women to move out of poverty.

2. Strengthening Accountability

It is important that we are all able to account for the work that we are doing to promote gender equality and promote women's empowerment.

Australia tracks our spending on gender equality using the OECD DAC gender marker. On this measure in 2009-10, 48% of spending or A$1.57 billion of AusAID spending had gender as a principal or secondary objective.

Australia is placing a major emphasis on improving the accountability of our development assistance by developing a results framework to track the contribution that we make to reducing poverty. This will form the basis of an annual report to Government on the results of our Official Development Assistance.

As we move closer to 2015, it is important that we all consider what targets we should have in place for promoting gender equality and women's empowerment in the post 2015 development goals framework. This will be a major area of international discussion, and work that we do together in implementing the Busan outcomes document and Action Plan to integrate targets for gender equality and women's empowerment into accountability mechanisms can inform these broader international discussions.

3. Integrating gender equality goals in development

Last year, the Australia Government released a new aid policy - "An Effective Aid Program for Australia". As part of this policy, the government has committed to remain a firm and persistent advocate of gender equality, and that gender equality would be a critical cross-cutting issue of our aid program.

One of the steps that Government has taken to deliver on these commitments is to establish my position as Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.

AusAID has also released a new gender equality thematic strategy that sets out how these commitments will be put into practice.

The strategy focuses on 4 key priorities for advancing gender equality and empowering women:

  • Advancing equal access to gender-responsive health and education services
  • Increasing women's voice in decision-making, leadership and peace-building
  • Empowering women economically and improving their livelihood security
  • Ending violence against women and girls at home, in their communities, and in disaster and conflict situations.

The Action Plan also draws particular attention to the need to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in peacebuilding and statebuilding.

The Australian Government will soon release its National Action Plan on women, peace and security. The plan will set out our commitments in response to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and related resolutions.

Peace-building and state-building are also crucial to addressing fragility and conflict. These are key issues for Australia's development assistance program.

Seven of the top ten countries we provide aid to are considered fragile or conflict-affected and over half of our aid bilateral aid program goes to fragile states.

Australia is an active member and strong supporter of the International Dialogue on Peace-building and State-building. We have endorsed the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and are partnering with East Timor to pilot its implementation

Gender equality and women's empowerment has a part to play in each of the five peacebuilding and statebuilding goals outlined in the New Deal.

An important principle of the New Deal is partner country ownership of their development. The g7+ grouping has successfully demonstrated leadership and ownership in coming together as a collective voice in the international policy arena to promote reforms that will benefit the men and women of their countries.


As I have set out, the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development offers us an opportunity to accelerate the work that we are doing to promote gender equality and empower women.

It draws out the commitments made in the Busan outcomes document in relation to measuring and accounting for what we do to support and empower the women of the world , and ensuring that we think about how to promote equality between men and women through all of our work.

For those of you who have already signed on as a supporter of the Action Plan, we look forward to working with you to put these commitments into practice. For those of you who have not yet done so, I urge you to consider supporting the Action Plan as one way in which we can work together to further our commitment to gender equality and women's empowerment, and effective, sustainable development.

Last Updated: 19 September 2014
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