APGPD members met in March to discuss the recent debates around the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN and to discuss what domestic issues around women’s empowerment, gender-based violence and health that members might work collaboratively on.
The Sustainable Development Goals are due to replace the Millennium Development Goals at the end of this year. After widespread consultations, the final draft proposed 17 goals, which the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has clustered into six ‘essential elements’: dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, planet, people. One contested part of this agenda is the place of women’s rights and women’s empowerment.
As witnessed recently at the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York in March, a number of countries remain opposed to progressing an agenda that aims to tackle gender inequality, gender-based violence and women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
This year’s CSW was significant as it marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive global agreement on women’s rights, and it connects crucially to the ongoing negotiations of the SDG agenda. The Women’s Major Group, comprising 120 organisations, criticised the political declaration that was issued at the conference for failing to match the level of ambition in the Beijing Declaration from 20 years ago. Russia, the Holy See, Indonesia, Nicaragua and the Africa group of countries have tried to limit references in the text to human rights and to remove mention of the role feminist groups play in advancing gender equality. Australia is among the countries advocating for maintaining the strong references to human rights and has been a strong champion for protecting the inclusion of civil society in this process.
The Group also discussed the APGPD Constitution and what scope there is for the group to focus on domestic issues. Among the domestic issues the Group could work collaboratively on, members nominated indigenous health and gender-based violence, as well as poor health outcomes amongst the poorest and most marginalised members of Australian society.
The Group also discussed how to better connect with sister Parliamentary Groups on Population and Development in the Asia Pacific region, of which there are currently 28 groups in national parliaments. We have the capacity to help fellow parliamentary champions of women’s rights in our region, and share examples of what we have achieved in Australia.