Will inclusion and accountability take centrestage at the Generation Equality Forum?

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Undoubtedly, the Generation Equality Forum which took place earlier this year, was a milestone to galvanize US$ 40 billion financial commitments for gender equality and human rights worldwide. This is the largest amount of investment to advance gender equality and women’s rights ever. It also launched a 5-year action journey (till 2026) "to achieve irreversible progress towards gender equality, founded on a series of concrete, ambitious and transformative actions, as well as ambitious policy and programme commitments from governments, philanthropy, civil society, youth organizations and the private sector."

 But 92 intersectional feminist groups have raised an issue that cannot be ignored: why was the entire region of Asia and the Pacific on the blindspot in this process? These 92 groups have written an open letter seeking inclusion and accountability in the Generation Equality Forum process. Addressed to UN Women, the statement cites the “lack of engagement and resources provided for the Asia Pacific region in the Generation Equality Forum, and its development”.

 Generation Equality Forum which took place in Paris from 30th June to 2nd July 2021, did not feature any government representatives from Asia Pacific nor did it have enough representation from groups like sex workers and transgender people.

 “Notwithstanding our concerns, as intersectional feminists, we ask UN Women to provide space for civil society organizations to strengthen the commitments of Generation Equality Forum. We will continue to engage in good faith but we will seek increased accountability and transparency in content, structure, and process,” said Alexandra Johns of the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, a Bangkok-based SRHR network.

 “We fear that the de-prioritization of the largest region in the world will result in missed opportunities to advance the gender equality agenda,” said Natassha Kaur of the International Planned Parenthood Federation East & South East Asia and Oceania Region (IPPF ESEAOR).

 The statement also cited concerns about the lack of accessibility of the online platform used by the Generation Equality Forum. “We were faced with barriers that are not only due to the technology-related challenges but also because of the timing and language”, said Marevic Parcon of the Philippine-based Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR).

 The feminists provided recommendations as to ways forward for the Generation Equality Forum rocess. These include establishing regional communities that collaborate with regional UN offices and support engagement of intersectional feminists and women in all their diversity; establishing a strong and effective accountability framework at regional, national and global levels; engaging with intersectional feminists and civil society groups to properly resource and implement a robust and inclusive accountability framework that evaluates transformative impact at the grassroots level; and strengthening engagement with multi-stakeholder groups across the region as the GEF process continues to be planned and implemented.

 Climate Justice also merited its own recommendation with the feminists asking for “urgent fundraising” to fund a global campaign to increase political will on climate change, ecological and gender equality. The Asia-Pacific region is the most vulnerable to climate-related disasters, disproportionately affecting women and marginalized groups, according to the statement.

 The open letter rightly puts the spotlight: “Asia Pacific is home to the world's largest population, with over 60% of the world's youth. It is the most vulnerable to climate-related disasters, disproportionately affecting women and marginalized groups. Almost 40% of women in South-East Asia and up to 68% of women in the Pacific experience sexual and gender-based violence

 

from intimate partners. The Pacific region has some of the lowest rates of women in national legislative bodies on the globe. Generation Equality Forum was envisioned as a space to position some of these issues with our governments and we expected that the Paris Forum would provide a platform to raise our critical collective advocacy issues. Yet, we observed that no government from Asia or the Pacific took part in the Paris opening or closing ceremonies; feminist leadership was not well represented throughout the forum and specific groups like sex workers and trans people were excluded. This is a huge missed opportunity to advance the gender equality agenda across our region and accurately represent global Generation Equality realities.”

The open letter added “Without guaranteeing the participation of those marginalized by ableism, heteronormativity, patriarchy and colonial legacies, we shall never achieve gender equality, and ‘leaving no one behind’ will simply be empty rhetoric. The Generation Equality Forum must adhere to and exemplify the core Action Coalition principles of intersectionality, feminist leadership and transformation.”

 The open letter recommended:

 * Transforming the Action Coalitions into inclusive Communities of Practice with full accessibility, and establishing regional communities of practice with resources for regional UN offices and development institutions to support engagement of intersectional feminists and women in all their diversity, including those in urban poor, informal settlements, rural and maritime areas, sex workers, LGBTQIAP, fluid, and non-binary people and people living with disabilities, from across the region;

* Making available adequate, sustainable and flexible funding to civil society, feminist, women, community and grass-roots, and youth-led organisations;

* Establishing a strong and effective accountability framework at regional, national and global levels by the end of the year to monitor commitments made by all Action Coalition leaders and commitment-makers;

* Engaging with intersectional feminists and civil society groups in the region to advocate with governments, regional development institutions and funders to properly resource and implement a robust and inclusive accountability framework that evaluates transformative impact at the grassroots level;

* Urgent fundraising by Generation Equality Forum for the work of the Feminist Action and Climate Justice Action Coalition, and a global cross-Action Coalition campaign to increase political will on climate change, ecological and gender equality;

* Strengthening engagement with multi-stakeholder groups across the region as the Generation Equality Forum process continues to be planned and implemented, including all future fora and accountability mechanisms, to ensure that no one in our region is left out in the future.

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