In response to the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no one behind,” the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Ministry of Finance, Government of Fiji, held a national consultation in Suva, Fiji today to explore innovative policies to measure, analyze and combat growing inequalities.
Shaped by their small size, remoteness and vulnerability to economic and natural shocks, the Pacific Island Developing States face unique challenges in relation to inequality. Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults in the subregion. Gender inequality continues to be an obstacle, with over 65 per cent of women having experienced violence at the hands of a partner in some Pacific countries, and across the region, women and persons with disabilities continue to face barriers to employment and decent work opportunities.
“Tackling inequalities by strengthening social protection systems and revamping labor market policies will bring direct socioeconomic benefits for countries, and ultimately determine the success of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Patrik Andersson, Chief of the Social Integration Section at ESCAP.
The consultation brought together more than 50 high-level government representatives and key stakeholders from civil society and academia to boost knowledge on critical policy measures required to achieve more inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies in Fiji. The forum built on the findings of a recent ESCAP publication entitled “Time for Equality: The Role of Social Protection in Reducing Inequalities in Asia and the Pacific” as well as the ESCAP Social Protection Toolbox, which provides access to an interactive database of over 130 good practices in social protection from developing countries.
“Fiji is currently taking a leading role in reducing inequalities in the South Pacific region,” said H.E. Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney-General and Minister of Finance, Government of Fiji.
“We are keen to share with other Pacific Island nations strategies and solutions we have developed that are tailored to the unique regional challenges that we and our neighbors face,” he added. “ESCAP’s work in this area supports Fiji’s efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society have access to quality health care, education and other essential services.”
Fiji is currently taking essential steps to bridge inequality gaps through the delivery of social protection programs. The mandatory pension insurance scheme provided by the Fiji National Provident Fund, for example, has been integral to promoting basic income security for older persons in the country.
The next national Pacific consultation will be held in Tarawa, Kiribati on 17 June 2016, co-organised by ESCAP and the Ministry of Women, Youth and Social Affairs, Government of Kiribati.