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United Nations ESCAP Pacific Office
PMB, Suva, Fiji
Tel.+679 331 9669
Email: registry.epo@un.org
Focus areas of the Pacific Operations Centre
Disability in the Pacific

There are an estimated 832,900 Pacific Islanders with disabilities:

  • They rarely enjoy human rights comparable to others and are invisible to most of the community.
  • Discrimination is exacerbated by the negative attitudes, prejudice, ignorance and apathy of policy-makers and the community.
  • The lack of participation shows that barriers remain deeply embedded in the structures of communities, particularly for women with disabilities.
  • under-participation in paid employment has obvious material consequences, but it is further reinforced by lower levels of educational attainment and lack of accessibility to the built environment.
  • Pacific Islanders with disabilities, compared with their non-disabled counterparts, have massively restricted life choices and opportunities.

The Pacific Operations Centre addresses these issues by providing assistance to Pacific Island Governments in implementing the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action towards an Inclusive, Barrier-Free and Rights-Based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific (BMF)

Disability services review consultations Vanuatu, 2005.

Biwako Millennium Framework
The ‘Biwako Millennium Framework for Action Towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific’ (BMF) was the outcome of the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting to Conclude the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, held in Otsu City, Shiga, Japan in October 2002. The BMF ensures that countries, in their progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, address the needs of persons with disabilities.

The strong participation of Pacific governments and NGOs has been a crucial element in the development and implementation of the BMF.

At the 2003 Pacific Forum, leaders recognized that the BMF provides goals and targets for Pacific Island countries for the next 10 years. They acknowledged that priorities for Governments are to address policy for the coordination of services and to provide a disability focal point.

The ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre has been active in its support for Governments within the sub-region to review disability services, develop rights-based national disability policy and implementation plans drawing on the BMF, and promote regional collaboration and coordination.

Regional Collaboration
ESCAP worked with regional bodies to ensure that the mid-point review process of the BMF highlighted Pacific priorities on disability, while taking into account developments and barriers specific to the Pacific. ESCAP supported participation of Pacific Island countries in the September 2007 mid-point evaluation of the BMF through convening a sub-regional Pacific expert group meeting in March 2007 in collaboration with the Pacific Disability Forum.

ESCAP and Pacific Disability Forum Disability Expert Group Meeting, Fiji, March 2007.

The expert group meeting recognised that the BMF should be the regional framework to ensure that countries in Asia and the Pacific fulfil the Articles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006, and recommended that governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) focus on a few priority areas within the BMF and key strategies over the next five years.

Strategies for Implementing the Biwako Millennium Framework

  • promoting a rights-based approach for all;
  • promoting an enabling environment and strengthening an effective mechanism for policy formulation and implementation;
  • improving understanding of disability.

The three strategies must include people with disabilities as collaborators for implementation and may require Disabled People’s Organisations to take a leadership role.

The ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre has formed an informal partnership with the Pacific Disability Forum and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to deliver more effective technical assistance and support to governments, NGOs and Disabled People’s Organisations in their endeavours to address BMF priorities.

Disability Policies that are in line with the BMF have already been adopted in the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia are also expected to adopt disability policies shortly.

Key partners of the Pacific Operation Centre are the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Pacific Disability Forum.

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