SUVA, FIJI, 13 October 2020 – Yesterday the United Nations and the European Union (EU) launched a multi-year partnership – the Spotlight Initiative Regional Pacific Programme focused on amplifying efforts to end violence against women and girls.

In the Pacific region, the Spotlight Initiative will focus on addressing Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence, working in partnership with key regional institutions and diverse partners, to address: legislative and policy gaps; strengthening institutions; promoting gender-equitable attitudes; strengthening systems of collecting data on violence against women and girls; and supporting civil society and coalitions in advocacy.

The Spotlight Pacific Regional Initiative builds on existing commitments across 16 Pacific Island countries (Fiji, Samoa, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, PNG, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tokelau, Niue and Cook Islands), as well as country specific commitments in Fiji, Republic of Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands to ending domestic and intimate partner violence.

While addressing partners and invited guests via video link from New York, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed said, “The Spotlight Initiative is a comprehensive, all-sector approach to tackle one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. Through the Spotlight Initiative, we are calling together everyone to ensure women and girls can live a life free of violence, in all its forms.”

“We are working hand-in-hand with everyone, from world leaders to the grassroots, government, civil society, the private sector, development partners, men and boys, women and girls. We must all get involved,” she added.

Speaking at the launch, Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific HE Sujiro Seam said, “The Spotlight Initiative is an unprecedented effort, through its level of funding and coordinated efforts of multiple stakeholders, in the global fight to eliminate violence against women and girls. It reflects the commitment of the EU to multilateralism and partnership. It reaffirms gender equality and women’s rights as a key strand of European Union foreign policy, in line with its upcoming Gender Action Plan 2021-2025.”

The Spotlight Initiative represents an unprecedented global effort to invest in gender equality as a precondition and driver for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, launched with a global seed funding commitment of €500 million from the EU.

During the launch, a panel discussion took place that included a civil society representative from Tonga, a representative of faith based organisations from the Pacific, youth advocate and a disability advocate connecting from Palau.

Studies conducted in most Pacific Island countries reveal some of the highest rates of domestic and intimate partner violence in the world. Up to 2 in 3 women in some Pacific countries have experienced violence in their lifetime.

Between 25 to 68 per cent of women in Pacific Island Countries reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner since age 15. The figures are significantly higher in the programme focus countries of Solomon Islands (65%), Fiji (64%), Vanuatu (60%), and Marshall Islands (51%).

In closing the event, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Sanaka Samarasinha said “The Spotlight Initiative is testament to what we can do together when we combine our efforts to address a common goal and that is to end violence against women and girls in the Pacific.”

“As someone once said to end violence against women and girls we need political will, partnership and public commitment. We have all of these, but we need to do it together.”