Pacific delegations to COP 21 were part of the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change reached by negotiators last Saturday night.

The Agreement includes several key elements that are of particular importance to the Pacific region,  including recognition for pursuing a temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels, a strengthened mechanism for loss and damage, and the provision for scaled up and simplified access to climate finance for small island developing states.

The Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies have been working as “One Team” to support Pacific island countries with technical assistance during the lengthy negotiation process.

Mr. David Sheppard, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), commended the leadership and tireless efforts of Pacific Leaders in Paris who were truly inspirational throughout COP 21 and noted: “I was extremely proud to be with our Pacific Leaders in Paris and to hear the voices of the Pacific on climate change, in this important global platform.” 

 Small Islands around the world worked together, demonstrating the importance of Pacific collaboration with other regions, through the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), “AOSIS has been instrumental in mobilising a collective voice in the sea of lengthy and intense negotiations, which is evidenced in the position of 1.5 degrees and a mechanism for loss and damage, being included in the final text of the Paris Agreement,” Mr Sheppard noted.

 Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, was in Paris for the COP 21 meeting and agreed, saying “This agreement provides a strong outcome for the Pacific. While there were great gains the real work starts now. We must work together to secure climate change finance for the island nations to support Adaptation activities.

Pacific Leaders and their delegations did an amazing job in representing their people and future generations of Pacific islanders. The way in which the CROP agencies worked alongside them highlighted to me once again just how much can be achieved when the region works together towards a common goal.”

The Paris Agreement includes aspects that are legally binding, and includes a five year review of emissions to determine the ability to meet the long term global goal, to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change."

Other key measures include: to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century; to review progress every five years; and a commitment towards US$100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future. Small island states, together with least developed countries, have special status with regard to financing and reporting under the Paris Agreement.

The inclusion of “loss and damage” in the Agreement is a significant step towards recognition of the loss and damage that results from the adverse effects of climate change (including extreme weather events and slow onset events) and acknowledgment of the suffering of vulnerable states including small island countries and territories in the Pacific. 

Another key implication from Paris will be an overhaul of historic proportions for energy policies worldwide and a huge investment in renewable energy and cleaning up the pollution now being emitted to the Earth’s atmosphere. In the Pacific - this will signal an acceleration of the existing efforts of Pacific island countries and territories to shift to renewable energy. Globally, every country will now have to commit to reducing emissions. 

Key factors on the success of COP 21 for the Pacific were the open and transparent manner in which the Government of France led the COP itself and their extensive consultations with stakeholders, Pacific voices and the AOSIS,  building upon the lessons learnt from Copenhagen in 2009. 

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Professor Rajesh Chandra, welcomed the outcome of COP 21 and noted: “The Paris Agreement is a historic win globally, and seeing how the Pacific has been able to influence the COP 21 negotiations, while also working as the 'moral centre', is a great show of our abilities and the collaborative potential we have across the region and amongst our CROP agencies."

It is a great testament of what can be achieved by our island nations, which will be especially important as the world begins to work towards the goals that are set out in the Agreement," said Professor Chandra

CROP agencies through the PIFS, SPREP, USP and the Pacific Community (SPC), worked closely and effectively together at COP 21 to support Pacific delegations.

The Director-General of the Pacific Community, Dr Colin Tukuitonga noted: "The Paris Agreement is an achievement of David and Goliath proportions and our Pacific leaders and delegations must be commended for fronting this monumental challenge with sterling leadership, unwavering commitment and a strong, united voice.”

 “Against immense odds, the concerns and resolve of small island states are echoed in the pages of this agreement and I would also like to acknowledge the effective cooperation by all partners within the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific towards lending vital support to our leaders in their quest for a successful outcome in Paris," Dr  Tukuitonga added.

Further information about the final Paris Agreement from COP 21 can be found here: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf

For more information about the CROP agencies contact:

Audrey Brown-Pereira

Executive Officer

Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

[email protected]

Julie Marks

Director- Strategic and Corporate Communication

Pacific Community

[email protected]

Jordie Kilby

Communications Adviser

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

[email protected]

Sarika Chand

University of the South Pacific

[email protected]

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(1) Pacific Leaders at the COP 21 Paris

NOUMEA, 09 DECEMBER 2015 (SPC) -----As the world marks Human Rights Day on 10 December, let us celebrate the efforts of Pacific governments, civil society and individuals to advance human rights in our region.

Pacific cultures value fairness, equality, protection of the most vulnerable, helping and serving others, participation, dialogue and consensus building. These are human rights values and principles that are not foreign but embedded in Pacific beliefs, laws, policies and in international human rights instruments. 

Whether we realise it or not, human rights considerations cut across priority sectors, including economic, social and cultural rights, as well as political and civil rights and freedoms.  

The Pacific Community (SPC) is committed to the principles of good governance and to the defence and promotion of human rights. For 20 years, through our Human Rights Programme, SPC has been deepening relationships of trust with governments, judiciaries, parliamentarians, non-governmental, faith and community-based organisations.  Via our Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), we encourage the interpretation of international human rights in the context of Pacific cultures and way of life.  

We support our country and territory members through training, technical support, legislative drafting, policy advice and advocacy services to policy and decision makers, government service providers and civil society organisations. This includes assisting lawyers, magistrates, members of parliament and key implementing agencies to apply human rights standards to their work.

One recent outcome in this context is the Denarau 2015 Declaration on Human Rights and Good Governance, signed by 19 Members of Parliament from 13 Pacific Island countries, who pledged to respect, fulfil, protect and promote the inherent rights of all peoples in the Pacific. 

Acceding to treaties shows commitment to human rights standards for the delivery of services and opportunities for all citizens to access basic rights and freedoms that enable development outcomes. SPC provides training and ongoing mentoring in the process of treaty ratification and reporting, together with technical assistance for national legislative alignment to international human rights standards.

Pacific Island countries are reviewed every four to five years on their human rights records by a United Nations mechanism called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In the first round of UPR reporting, SPC assisted Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu with their reviews. The UPR has now entered its second reporting cycle and, so far, Fiji, FSM, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and have received support from SPC.

The theme for Human Rights Day this year is “Our rights. Our freedoms. Always”. Fundamental to ensuring the protection of human rights is the promotion of legislative reform. SPC assists Pacific states with drafting legislation and policy, and ensuring international human rights standards are infused into programme planning, policy development and legislative reform in human rights priority areas, such as gender equality, disability, the rule of law and climate change. 

Recent research by the United Nations in six Pacific countries shows the prevalence of violence against women is among the highest in the world, with two out of three women having experienced violence, too often at the hand of an intimate partner or family member. Highlighting the urgency of ending violence against women has been the focus of “16 Days of Activism in the Pacific”, a campaign led by SPC and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat that culminates on Human Rights Day. 

SPC provides technical support to its member in the preparation, enactment and implementation of domestic violence legislation. This includes the creation of domestic violence protection orders, responsibilities of the Police and service providers, and the introduction of preventative measures, education and monitoring mechanisms. 

Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands are in the process of moving from “Act to Action”, ensuring that women are aware of and able to access the protections provided for in their respective national legislation. SPC is also supporting the development of new domestic violence legislation in Nauru and Niue. 

Formed in 1998, our partnership with the University of the South Pacific (USP) to promote effective leadership and governance, has seen more than 880 law students from across the Pacific complete a Postgraduate Professional Diploma in Legal Practice.  The 22-week course prepares students for entry into legal practice and equips them to apply a human rights and gender-sensitive lens to access to justice. Additionally, 1061 students – 57 per cent of whom are women – have passed through a jointly run Diploma in Leadership, Governance and Human Rights, introduced in 2013. 

SPC is able to contribute to such outcomes thanks to the support of the Australian Government, the European Union and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Our 26 members strongly endorsed the Pacific Community Strategic Plan 2016-2020 at our Conference held in Niue last month. This plan reinforces our commitment to the defence of human rights and ensures the needs of the most vulnerable in our societies will remain at the forefront of SPC’s work......PACNEWS

 

“We’re just so different! But together the Women’s Forum has been able to redefine what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a woman leader in Fiji,” says Tara Chetty, the Executive Director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement.

The Fiji Women’s Forum is a coalition of women leaders co-convened by FemlinkPACIFIC, the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, the National Council of Women (Fiji), and Soqosoqovakamarama iTaukei. The Forum was formed in 2012 to bring together diverse women’s groups with the aim of increasing women’s participation in leadership.

Fiji has one of the highest proportions of women in parliament (16% in 2014) in the Pacific and the Forum is determined to further increase women’s representation in national parliament, and participation in public life. 

 “We’ve found a way to work together for a common goal; promoting greater women’s leadership in all areas of decision-making” says Tara Chetty.

The Forum has held five national consultations, which have brought together young women leaders, established feminists, indigenous women leaders, transwomen advocates, and women of diverse ethnicities from all over the country. 

“We build on a rich tradition of advocacy, demonstrated leadership, community work and development of Fijian women as reflected throughout our national history and reaffirm our combined commitment to sustainable and participatory democracy, development and peace in Fiji,” says Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Coordinator of FemlinkPACIFIC.

The Fiji Women’s Forum has a strong interest in promoting temporary special measures and other strategies for increasing women’s access to decision-making.  Their work has included a baseline survey of public perceptions of women’s leadership in Fiji.  The survey found that Fijians largely recognise that there should be more women in Parliament, and that women are well qualified to lead.

“The challenge now for the Women’s Forum is to translate this increasingly positive perception of women into greater access to decision-making at all levels – from local government to traditional governance, from informal settings to the national Parliament.” 

The group has also shared their work regionally, including at a recent women’s leadership conference in the Solomon Islands, to promote greater collaboration between women’s organisations across the Pacific towards gender equality. 

16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and SPC who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration has a specific priority on advancing women’s decision making at all level including the adoption of temporary special measures and advocacy for increased representation of women at all levels including local level governance, boards and committees. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes. The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted Fiji’s progress as Fiji Parliamentary Committees included gender performance targets. September 2014 Elections saw more women candidates and resulted in an increase in women in parliament, and the Speaker of the House a woman.

New interventions have been made as a response to the alarming statistics on gender based violence in Kiribati.

A Family Health and Support Study conducted in 2010 indicated that more than 2 in 3 (68%) women aged 15-49 who had been in a relationship reported experiencing physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner.

Since releasing the study, the Government established a Ministry of Women, formed a special domestic and sexual violence unit within the police force, and enacted the Te Rau N TeMweenga Act (Family Peace Act for Domestic Violence). This law aims at ensuring the safety of all people including children who experience or witness domestic violence.

Ms Froline Tokaa is the Coordinator for the Elimination of Sexual Gender Based Violence Project, which comprises key government ministries and stakeholders, including the church. She says that “having a taskforce helps a lot as we are able to integrate these sensitive issues into the work of other agencies”.

Ms Tokaa has been working with the Ministry of Education in developing curriculum and counselling guidelines for schools.

Apart from having a gender focal point within the Ministry, a committee was formed which included key unit experts such as a curriculum officer and representatives from the teachers college. This led to focused activities within this sector.

“One person cannot reflect the whole Ministry’s ideas. It’s strategic to invite other technical units to support a full integration of such issues.”

In Kiribati there is now a greater sense of ownership of the curriculum and teacher training programs are helping prevent violence in communities. In September 2015 there was a formal handover of the education and awareness aspect of the sexual gender based violence work from the Ministry of Women to the Ministry of Education. 

Froline says she has seen an increase in teachers providing basic counselling to students “Before, when teachers had a student with a domestic violence problem they were not able to assist them, but now with the training and guidelines being developed, more teachers are assisting these students”.

16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and SPC who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration has a specific priority on ending violence against women. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes. The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted Kiribati progress as endorsement of Kiribati Shared Implementation Plan and increase in the number of women reporting on domestic violence.

 

Women are the backbone of this country’s economy, said Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Douglas Ete at a Women’s Innovation Expo in Honiara earlier this year.

“Women provide most of the labour force in subsistence agriculture in this country. They spend three times more than men in their food gardens, yet their work is not counted as productive in our national gross domestic product (GDP).”

George Herming, Communications Director for the Solomon Islands Government agrees “women are actively involved in other initiatives in the informal economy such as floral arts, cooking stalls, betel nut markets, fish and handicraft markets”

“Looking back over the years, I can see improvement in the status of women in Solomon Islands. Women are more visible, their voices are heard and they are making a significant contribution to our economy” Mr Herming said.

A recent World Bank report cited in the Solomon Islands Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 2013 Report stated that the annual turnover at the Honiara Central Market is estimated at between USD$10-16 million, with women responsible for about 90% of the marketing activity as bulk buyers from farmers and as retailers.

16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and The Pacific Community who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration prioritizes on  women’s economic empowerment and call for targeted support to women entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sectors, for example financial services, information and training and review legislation that limits women’s access to finance assets, land and productive resources. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes. The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted .Solomon Islands progress in this area as follows:-.Central Bank of Solomon Islands opened saving clubs for women in rural/outer island areas.

If there’s a lesson to learn from Vanuatu’s relief response following Tropical Cyclone Pam, it’s the inclusion of a gender perspective in disaster management from the very start, says Esron Marck Vano of Vanuatu’s Department of Women.

‘Disasters affect men and women differently and we need to understand the diverse needs and priorities of the various groups to be able to respond effectively to the realities on the ground. For Vanuatu, the initial rapid disaster assessment did not reflect everyone’s perspective hence the result was a blanket distribution of supplies’ reflects Mr Vano.

Mr Vano recalls that food packages consisted of rice, tinned fish, noodles, salt, sugar and crackers and were meant for the entire population not taking into account the specific needs of groups like children of ages 0-5 years and pregnant women.

“In the shelters, there were no proper lightings for the toilets and bathrooms making it risky for girls and women to access those areas in the night.”In specific disaster situations, “recognizing the different needs and priorities of men and women in shelter and provision of basic services in post disaster situations will greatly help governments and aid/development agencies design programmes that respond to the needs of all, while promoting gender equality and human development for both men and women.”

16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and The Pacific Community who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. 

The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declarationhas a specific priority on gender responsive government program and policies calls for gender issues to be considered across all sectors such as climate change and disaster response. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes.

The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted Vanuatu’s progress in this area as follows: finalised Gender Equality Policy and gender mainstreaming of sector policies such as climate change. Sex disaggregated data available for Census, Household Surveys and National Disability Survey.

 

 

To mark the 16 days of activism towards the elimination of violence against women, SPC and PIFS got together to highlight 16 stories of progress, activism and success towards gender equality. Feel free to share!

Explaining gender in English can be difficult, but explaining it in vernacular in ‪#‎Niue has also proven challenging.

In an effort to identify new approaches for explaining what is meant by the term ‘gender”, Mrs. Diamond Tauevihi has approached the National Language Commissioner for assistance, as she says that “‪#‎Gender in English is just one word but when explaining it in Vagahau Niue it becomes a very long sentence.”

Mrs. Tauevihi has been advocating for gender equality for many years in Niue. In their National Gender Policy the Government has attempted to give gender a localised definition.

Recently the Government of Niue has allocated funding towards the implementation of the Niue National Policy on Gender Equality. “This is encouraging because it recognizes how important gender equality is for Niue”.

Mrs. Tauevihi feels that it is important that gender is defined in vernacular, given that ‪#‎Pacific leaders have now adopted the ‪#‎SDGs. Goal 5 is focused on achieving gender equality and greater empowerment for women.

“Ultimately, it’s not about men or women identifying with specific roles and responsibilities, it’s about a shared contribution to the community. Going to the bush could be my role and washing the dishes could be that of my husband”, says Mrs. Tauevihi.

To mark the ‪#‎16DaysofActivism against Gender Based Violence the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat is sharing stories from across the Pacific of successful programs that are addressing gender related issues and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. Show your support and share with the world.

Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration (http://bit.ly/1Yqu7hd) has a specific priority on gender responsive government policies and programs related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes (http://bit.ly/21dbxvr)

The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted Niue’s progress in this area http://bit.ly/1I7mMPx

 NEW YORK, 25 NOVEMBER 2015 (UN WOMEN) ----Across the world, violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious—and the most tolerated—human rights violations, both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality and discrimination.

Its continued presence is one of the clearest markers of societies out of balance and we are determined to change that.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women we say again: 

  • It is not acceptable. 
  • It is not inevitable.
  • It can be prevented. 

Although there is no single solution to such a complex problem, there is growing evidence of the range of actions that can stop violence before it happens, especially if they are implemented in parallel. 

Further research currently underway will lead to more definitive strategies and interventions to prevent violence.  

We believe that, through concerted action by everyone involved, from governments to individuals, we can tackle the unequal power relations and structures between men and women and highlight the necessary attitudinal, practice and institutional changes.

Imagine how different the world would be for girls growing up now if we could prevent early marriage, female genital mutilation, the turning of a blind eye to domestic violence, abusive text messages, the impunity of rapists, the enslavement of women in conflict areas, the killing of women human rights defenders, or the hostility of police stations or courtrooms to women’s testimony of violence experienced. 

We have made progress in improving the laws that distinguish these acts and others as ones of violence and invasion of human rights. Some 125 countries have laws against sexual harassment, 119 have laws against domestic violence, but only 52 countries have laws on marital rape.

We know that leaders, whether CEOs, Prime Ministers, or teachers, can set the tone for zero tolerance to violence.

Community mobilization, group interventions for both women and men, educational programmes and empowerment of women are some of the interventions that have impact, when they are put together with other legal, behavioural and social changes. 

For example, in Uganda, engaging communities in discussion of unequal power relations between men and women dropped rates of physical violence by men against their partners by half. 

In Myanmar, provision of legal aid services for rural women is improving access to justice and the training of even a small group of male leaders has been identified as contributing to a change of behaviour in some 40 per cent of those in the target communities. 

We are doing pre-deployment training for peacekeepers to be more gender sensitive and to better protect civilian populations in conflict areas. 

And in the United States, urban police officers trained to recognize the warning signs of intimate partner violence, are making some progress in reducing the numbers of murdered women.

As we launch the Orange the World Campaign today, we already know that tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia, soccer stars in Turkey, police officers in Albania, school children in South Africa and Pakistan, and hundreds of thousands of others around the world, are all in their own way taking a stand.

We now have, for the first time, explicit targets to eliminate violence against women in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These demand accelerated action. 

When more than 70 world leaders took the podium in New York at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment on 27 September 2015, the majority named ending violence against women and girls as a priority for action.  

It is indeed a priority.

I believe that if we all work together: governments, civil society organizations, the UN system, businesses, schools, and individuals mobilizing through new solidarity movements, we will eventually achieve a more equal world—a Planet 50-50—where women and girls can and will live free from violence. ....PACNEWS

Talking about gender equality and challenging stereotypes can be quite difficult yet necessary to address different forms of discrimination women and girls face on a daily basis, and the media plays a critical role in informing people and initiating dialogue at different levels.

The Pacific Community (SPC), in collaboration with FemLINK PACIFIC and the Government of Australia, is organising a five-day workshop for Pacific Island government departments in charge of promoting gender equality and government media liaison officers.

Over 35 participants from 14 Pacific Island countries and territories are meeting this week at the SPC headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia, to strategize on promoting gender equality utilizing the media in its various forms. 

The workshop encompasses SPC’s and the Government of Australia’s vision to work in close cooperation to achieve improved development outcomes and sustainable improvements in the quality of life of all Pacific islanders.

In his opening remarks, the Pacific Community’s Deputy Director- General, Cameron Diver, stated that the result of many years of gender discrimination and stereotypical, exploitive images of women is quite possibly one of the key reasons for entrenched negative attitudes to women.

“One only needs to look at the deeply entrenched culture of victim-blaming in cases of violence against women and sexual assault,” Diver said.

“There is evidence that exposure to sexual violence through the media is linked to greater tolerance and even approval of violence. Television shows, music videos and video games are such examples of media portraying sexual violence which can lead to acceptance of sexual violence as part of normal relationships and natural parts of love and intimacy.”

Studies have revealed that domestic violence reaches alarming rates, affecting 25% of women in Palau to 64% in Fiji and 68% in Kiribati. 

The gender gap in employment rates as well as the fact that women’s political representation in the Pacific Islands region is the lowest of any global region, are also important concerns for gender equality.

“The role of the media is to report on the evolution and current priorities of our societies. It is therefore key that women’s perspectives be rightfully and fairly included,” said the Executive Director of the community-based media organization FemLINK PACIFIC and workshop facilitator, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls.

The workshop includes a series of interactive sessions about developing effective messages by using a language accessible to a large public as well as how to get ready to interact with the media in different contexts.
 
“Gender equality can be both an abstract and an uneasy subject for many people in the Pacific. When you work towards equality, you challenge power relations and promote change and that alone can trigger resistance,” explained SPC’s Deputy Director of the Social Development Division, Leituala Kuiniselani Toelupe Tago – Elisara.

“Communicating that when equality progresses, everyone in society benefits is key for all segments of society to rally behind the pursuit of gender equality,” she added.

The workshop concludes on Friday 20th November.


Media contacts:  Brigitte Leduc, SPC – [email protected] 

Sharon Bhagwan Roll, FemLINK PACIFIC, [email protected]



SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team receives core funding from the Australian Government and additional project support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP), European Union (EU) and the German Development Bank (KfW).