This thesis examines the way that women engaged with policy-making in the Pacific Islands Forum’s development processes for establishing the Pacific Plan for Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Integration. It does so in order to understand women’s perspectives of their involvement in the development processes for building regional inter-governmental policy. It reveals how many Pacific women believed they had been marginalised from some significant aspects of these processes during the development of the Pacific Plan. Using a feminist standpoint framework, the study begins by considering how historical socio-political influences are relevant to contemporary policy development processes. It then focuses on the gendered nature of 2004-2005 Pacific Islands Forum’s public consultation and submission processes for developing the Pacific Plan. The Pacific Islands Forum’s policy of gender mainstreaming is critiqued by considering the way that the policy development processes failed to ensure women’s voices were present at all levels of the process. It defers to the voices of the excluded, and understands them as having an intimate knowledge of why such exclusion occurs. This thesis builds on existing scholarly work on gender mainstreaming, and gender and policy development and practice. These accounts regularly connect the conceptual chasm between women’s lived experiences as participants in regional and global political environments, and the élite nature of intergovernmental policy-making. The perspectives of those located outside formal political processes generally escape analytical attention, while these studies often chronicle evidence of women’s engagement with political power, or their frequent marginalisation from issue-based politics such as security and economics. This thesis demonstrates that evaluations of women’s marginalisation can provide a more nuanced understanding of the shortfalls in regional policy development processes, and ultimately contribute to meeting international gender equality obligations.
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2014.