International Day of Persons with Disability observed with Significant Progress in the Pacific

UN and regional organizations review advancements in human rights of persons with disabilities.

During the UN observance of International Dayof Persons with Disability, the last decade’s advances for persons with disabilities in the Pacific were recognized. These included eight Pacific island countries having passed or being in the process of passing rights-based policies, and four countries having signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Pacific Disability Forum, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) welcome these advances as well as other developments such as the establishment of national disability advocacy and coordination mechanisms.

“Disabled Persons Organizations (DPO) have played a leading role in advancing awareness of disability in Pacific communities and have actively engaged governments to develop policy,” said Mr. Setareki Macanawai, Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Disability Forum.

Mr. Neroni Slade, Secretary-General, Pacific Islands Forum said governments have been willing to engage with people with disabilities, as well as with advocacy and service organizations and have embraced new policies to address the priorities of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“We were very pleased that Pacific Island Ministers responsible for disability were so enthusiastic in their support for a Pacific regional strategy on disability and we hope that this will be a useful policy and implementation tool to assist countries address national priorities,” he said.

Pacific Island countries have supported disability initiatives on the regional political agenda since 2003 when the Biwako Millennium Framework for addressing the needs of persons with disabilities was adopted by leaders of the Pacific Disability Forum, said Mr Alastair Wilkinson of ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre (UN-EPOC).

“However, it is of concern to note that governments and donors alike still neglect to include disability when reporting on the achievement towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Mr Wilkinson. "If we are serious about addressing poverty then persons with disabilities must be included on MDGs reporting as they are more likely to be poor than other groups."

The Pacific Disability Forum, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and UN ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre have been coordinating their support and technical advice to governments, DPOs and NGOs in the Pacific over the last few years, including a number of joint missions.

Mr. Slade said that “we expect to support the development of a new disability policy in Tuvalu early in 2010 and we will be supporting other Pacific Island countries to meet their obligations with respect to the new Regional Strategy and therefore to the priorities of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”