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Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1694

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. What was the outcome of the second Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Women and Development held in Jakarta last week?

Senator CROWLEY —I am very pleased to report to the Senate on the conference that was held in Jakarta last week, representing as it did the second meeting of the Asia-Pacific countries in preparation for the conference of women to be held in Beijing in 1995. The countries represented in the Asia-Pacific region include all the Pacific island countries and Asian countries as far west as Iran. So there is considerable diversity amongst those countries and it is therefore to be appreciated that an agreed position, called the Jakarta declaration, emerged from that conference.

  There are some distinguishing features of this conference and the declaration which I think are well worth reporting to the Senate. First of all, instead of settling for an agreed set of words, the conference preferred to come up with an agreed set of priorities which touch on issues such as education, poverty, women's health and human rights, including those relating to violence against women. It challenges each country to set its own list of priorities and to come up with ways in which it intends to meet the goals that it sets for itself. So there is a change from having just a talkfest to setting up a program of clearly measurable changes for each country.

  The important point to note about this conference is that it is the first of a number of preparatory conferences before the Beijing conference is held. Others will occur in Africa, America and Europe. They will take considerable note of the outcome of this conference. So I think it is very heartening that we had such a successful and unanimous outcome with the Jakarta declaration.

  I also wish to note the appreciation of many of those countries of Australia's contribution. First of all, they were appreciative of the dollar support to assist countries, particularly the Pacific island countries, to attend this conference. They were also appreciative of our preparedness to contribute to the production of the draft declaration. I am certainly delighted to be part of an Australian team that made such a contribution. I am also pleased that I attended a conference that had such a good outcome. I particularly want to acknowledge the contribution of the Pacific island countries, which caucused before this conference and made a contribution that was completely different from that made a mere 10 years ago at the conference in Nairobi.

  It is clear that the contributions of the United Nations and the world through these conferences do make a lot of difference to the status of women. That was certainly measurable from any of the number of statistics that were reported by every country contributing. But, interestingly enough, what all those countries acknowledged was the considerable work still ahead.

  Another very important issue that was also raised was the importance of recognising that if half the population of a country is poor then the whole country is poor. It is by resolving the problems of poverty, ill-education or lack of literacy in women that we can actually benefit the whole country. The declaration makes it clear that the advancement of the health of women and the benefits for women will benefit both men and women.

  I particularly want to acknowledge the importance of the timing of this conference, as it was on the eve of the Australia Today: Indonesia 94 conference, which was opened by my colleague Senator Gareth Evans a couple of days later. It was very important in cementing relations between Australia and Indonesia that this conference was hosted by Indonesia so well and with such assistance to all of us. I would particularly like to thank the Australian delegation which made my job so much easier.