Globalisation Not Neutral For The
But women will have to learn to negotiate
Leaders of women痴 organisations from the Pacific presented
Pacific perspectives on 迭e-inventing Globalisation・at the Ninth
Forum of the Association for Women痴 Rights in Development held in
Guadalajara, Mexico last month.
The question of how globalisation and trade agreements impact on
women痴 rights in the Pacific region was explored.
The human rights-based approach to women痴 issues is something new
that has come out of globalisation, declared Dr Peggy
Fairbairn-Dunlop, of the National Council of Women in Samoa.
This approach, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in
1979, demands the elimination of all forms of discrimination against
Countries that ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) must abolish laws that
discriminate against women, implement new laws to prohibit
discrimination against women and mechanisms to ensure
National reports outlining steps taken to comply with the
convention must also be submitted.
|Pacific women in Mexico (from left)...Margaret
Leniston, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; Shelly Rao,
coordinator Economic and Social Justice Programme of the
Ecumenical Council for Research, Education and Advocacy;
Dr Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, Samoa National Council of
Women; Sivia Qoro, Secretariat of the Pacific Community,
Pacific countries that have ratified CEDAW include Samoa, Fiji,
Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand.
The Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Niue, French Polynesia, Wallis
and Futuna and Tokelau have also ratified CEDAW through their
Despite the commitment to gender equality that some countries
have made in principle through CEDAW, government economic policies
often place gender equality in jeopardy, pointed out Margaret
Leniston, Gender Issues Adviser at the Pacific Islands Forum
Secretariat in Suva.
Trade agreements that were supposed to improve income-earning
opportunities for women have been followed by the expansion of
low-skilled, low-waged forms of employment for Pacific women.
The Pacific Islands Countries Trade Area (PICTA) agreement
between the 14 Forum Islands Countries and the Pacific Agreement on
Closer Economic Relations (PACER) were described as 都tepping stones
to compliance with World Trade Organisation rules・by Shelly Rao,
coordinator of the Economic and Social Justice Programme of the
Ecumenical Council for Research, Education and Advocacy in Suva, and
chair of the Fiji Women痴 Rights Movement.
To begin with, PICTA will lead to the gradual creation of a free
trade area among the Forum islands countries over the next 10
The islands countries will gradually phase out tariffs within the
area, with larger islands economies abolishing tariffs by 2010 and
smaller islands economies by 2012.
Items on a list of goods from 都ensitive industries・will have to
be liberalised by 2016.
Later, PACER requires free trade arrangements to be negotiated
between the Forum member countries and Australia and New
This approach is designed to prepare Forum member countries for
more extensive liberalisation later on.
The ownership and control of the Pacific痴 natural resources ・the
land and sea ・are at issue in these trade agreements.
Communal notions of ownership and the semi-subsistence economies
of the Pacific bring the appropriateness of the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) model into question for the Pacific.
Fairbairn-Dunlop痴 research on women entrepreneurs in Samoa found
that some women were taking advantage of the opportunities arising
from globalisation, and were starting their own businesses. These
entrepreneurial women were reinvesting in their businesses instead
of putting their money back into the family economy as had been done
The implications of this change for the family economy and for
sustainable development in Samoa were questioned by
The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
Agreement is another example of the WTO痴 individual notions of
ownership clashing with Pacific communal notions. According to Sivia
Qoro, Women痴 Development Adviser at the Secretariat of the Pacific
Community in Noumea, intellectual property rights deal with all the
rights that stem from intellectual activity, from the 田reations of
The current intellectual property rights regime offers little or
no protection to traditional knowledge and expressions of
The medicinal properties of kava (Piper mythesticum) were listed
as an example of traditional Pacific knowledge unprotected under
intellectual property rights law.
Through patents in the United States and Europe on the use of
kava to stimulate hair growth, French firm, L丹real, has turned
traditional Pacific knowledge into a multi-million dollar
The prevailing intellectual property rights laws seek to
privatise ownership ・they do not recognise the communal ownership
which often prevails in the Pacific.
According to Qoro, most custodians of traditional knowledge in
the Pacific are women, who will be directly affected by the global
intellectual property rights regime.
In recognition of the need to protect ownership of traditional
knowledge, the 22 member countries and territories of the Pacific
Community are engaged in efforts to develop a Model Law for the
Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions.
The Model Law sets out a definition of traditional knowledge as
belonging to the group, clan or community, not to the
The Model Law seeks to ensure that the collective owners of
traditional knowledge are consulted and give their informed consent
prior to the use of their traditional knowledge.
展omen will have to learn to negotiate their way through the world
of intellectual property rights laws,・Qoro said, if they are to
protect their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.
Educational programmes to accompany the adoption of the Model Law
to teach women how to use it, and the translation of the Model Law
into vernacular Pacific languages were suggested.
The trade liberalisation led by WTO is presented as neutral but
does not have a neutral effect on Pacific women.
Trade liberalisation under WTO affects countries and genders
Speaking of the different effects of globalisation on Pacific
countries, Qoro stated: 典hey assume it痴 a level playing field but it
Following the creation of the WTO and the accompanying trade
liberalisation, Pacific Islands economies have experienced a
slowdown in growth. The informal sector has had to expand in the
Pacific as formal sector employment has dwindled with cutbacks under
structural adjustment programmes. In Fiji, the 3000 new jobs created
in the formal sector annually are unable to meet the employment
needs of the 12,000 school-leavers looking for work each year.
Globalisation was described as a 電ouble-edged sword・for the
Pacific. While it brings new opportunities for Pacific women through
the introduction of new technologies, it also increases women痴
vulnerability, for example, to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Rao argued there are two challenges for Pacific women in
negotiating their way in the face of international trade
擢irst, we have to move away from the victim paradigm to a
transformative paradigm. Second, our analysis needs to move from the
domestic paradigm to understanding the relations among actors
The need for Pacific women to engage in transformational
politics, 澱ut on our own terms・ was emphasised by
As an example, she described how the Pacific was lumped with Asia
to prepare a submission for the 1995 Fourth World Conference on
Women in Beijing. But Pacific women were determined to submit a
separate document, and wrote their own Pacific Platform for
The Model Law to protect traditional knowledge demonstrates that
the Pacific is on the cutting edge in innovating a response to the
pressures of globalisation.
Despite Pacific women痴 innovation, Pacific women痴 voices were
marginalised at the forum, according to Qoro.
Translation into French, Spanish and Russian was not provided for
the Pacific session as it was for many others, and African, Latin
American, and Asian women痴 voices dominated at the conference.
As a result, women from other parts of the world missed out on
learning about the Model Law, which could be of use to indigenous
people globally as they negotiate to protect their traditional
knowledge and cultural expressions.