Toily Kurbanov: Launch of the Asia Pacific Human Development Report, Power, Voice and Rights

24 Mar 2010

I am very grateful for the opportunity provided by the Government of Kiribati and the Australian High Commission to introduce one of UNDP’s flagship products, the regional Human Development Report, which this year has special focus on gender equality.

The Report has been launched globally about two weeks ago, on the International Women’s Day, by a fellow Pacific islander (Helen Clark) in Delhi. We deferred the Report’s launch in the Pacific to take opportunity of this event in Kiribati.

Earlier today we launched the Report to members of the civil society in one of the Maneabas here in Bairiki and we were privileged to do this jointly with the Honourable Speaker of Parliament. Let me say a few words about the Report itself. We live in a materialistic world, where we are all after money, income and growth. The Report’s key objective is to keep focus on the broader aspects of the quality of life: on access to and quality of education, on healthcare, environment and other aspects of human development, which together gives a fuller picture of the quality of life and of choices people are empowered to make.

This 2010 HDR for Asia and the Pacific comes with strong focus on gender equality, which is absolutely essential for human development. The Report provides comprehensive analysis on gender equality in the region from three key perspectives.

First gender equality is about human rights. Without gender equality, half of the population in each country would have their fundamental rights not protected. Second, gender equality is about democracy. Full involvement and active participation of women in political life help to steer our societies and to bring about long term stability. Gender equality is good economics, based on the new analysis in the Report, increasing women’s participation in the developing countries to the level of industrialized world, will contribute to the global economy just as much as the economic growth of the People’s Republic of China did over the last 20 years.

Which brings me straight to the context of Kiribati and the theme of our Development Partners Forum on economic growth through infrastructure development. It will be very important that 50% of i-Kiribati have an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from economic growth. Through my discussions during the day, I was happy to re-confirm, once again, that the gender equality agenda has strong champions in the Government, in the Civil Society and among Development Partners.

We must recognize that in the end, any progress towards gender equality has to be embedded and build upon local customs, social norms and values. We cannot simply import policies from abroad. In this regard, the Report might contribute to the domestic discourse by highlighting best practices and major lessons learned elsewhere, so that the stakeholders in Kiribati will find the i-Kiribati’s own, unique path to gender equality.

You have some good foundations to build upon, such as high school enrollment rates of girls and in the future you can take it to the next level, be it from pursuing even more gender equitable laws or closing the gap between law and practice, or be it crafting economic policies to support gender equality or collecting better data backed by stronger capacity for gender analysis. What to do and how to do is going to be your call, and we are hopeful of the progress.

In conclusion, let me just say that new partnership seems to have emerged among development partners – the partnership of learning how to speak i-Kiribati language. Contributing to that momentum – and also by way of consolidating to the customization of the Report on i-Kiribati context, let me just say that the Report is there for your reading and its full title is Gender Equality : Power, Voice and Rights. In i-Kiribati this translates as Maaka-Te-Banana-Inaomatara-Inaomatam.

Thank You