(Monday 11 September 2023 – Suva, Fiji Islands) Today’s ‘Safe and Equal Online Spaces – Pacific Cyber Safety Symposium’ opening event acknowledged the 100-plus delegates from 14 Pacific Island countries converging to determine the region’s priorities to better address online safety and technology-facilitated gender-based violence.
In welcoming guests to the event, convened by the Pacific Community (SPC) and hosted by The University of the South Pacific (USP), Dr Giulio Paunga, USP’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, highlighted the critical importance for the region to collectively address technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV).
“Across the Pacific region, there is a small but growing body of evidence on the wide-ranging impacts of technology-facilitated gender-based violence on women and girls in all their diversity. Our partners across women’s crisis and frontline services are increasingly seeing the ways in which technology is used to extend forms of gender-based violence,” Dr Giulio Paunga said.
“This week, we gather to get a clear view on exactly what is happening with TFGBV in the Pacific and what are our regional priorities to address it,” he added.
Guest speaker at the event, Sophie Temby, Counsellor for Human Development at Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, said, “Australia is proud to work alongside our Pacific neighbours to create a safer online environment.”
“Only through collaborative partnerships, shared experiences, and open and inclusive dialogue will we progress efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence enabled through technology,” Counsellor Temby said.
Technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) occurs anytime a person uses technology to control, threaten, monitor or harass, stalk or intimidate. Perpetrators may commit this form of violence using various technologies, including phones, social media, car tracking systems, security videos and drones to smart devices.
Being held in Suva from 12─14 September, the Safe and Equal Online Spaces – Pacific Cyber Safety Symposium is convened by the Pacific Community (SPC) through its Pacific Women Lead at SPC (PWL at SPC) programme, in partnership with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, and supported by the Australian Government. As a member of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP), SPC is collaborating with other CROP partners: the University of the South Pacific (USP) as Chair of the CROP ICT Working Group, and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) as lead of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
SPC Principal Strategic Lead – Pacific Women and Girls, Mereseini Rakuita, explained how Pacific partners must work together to provide a safer digital ecosystem that supports rather than works against girls and women.
“Technology can assist women and girls to participate in education, contributing to the creation of a generation of women in the workplace who have the skills and confidence to use digital platforms to promote their economic participation and empowerment,” she added.
In a first for the Pacific, the regional symposium brings together key stakeholders from across the region working to address online safety, particularly technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV). This builds on the digital age theme of this year’s 67th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) and its CSW67 Agreed Outcomes while also advancing online safety priorities in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
The convening aims to address TFGBV by increasing a shared understanding of what works. This includes seeking clarity around roles and responsibilities across government and other stakeholders; working with governments on key legislations and regulatory approaches to address TFGBV; and documenting the Pacific’s TFGBV priorities, including ways to progress the CSW67 Agreed Outcomes. A TFGBV Priorities Document will be collated based on the event’s discussions and the regional priorities identified.
A broad range of stakeholders are attending the Safe and Equal Online Spaces symposium, from civil society to government, academia, private sector and regulatory bodies.
About Pacific Women Lead at SPC
One of the largest global commitments to gender equality, Pacific Women Lead aims to promote women’s leadership, realise women’s rights, and increase the effectiveness of regional gender equality efforts. The Pacific Women Lead (PWL) at the Pacific Community (SPC) programme, termed PWL at SPC, has more than AUD 55 million dedicated to its work under the Australian Government’s AUD 170 million Pacific Women Lead portfolio.
This partnership with the Australian Government commits SPC to deliver the PWL programme as the cornerstone for the portfolio.