Regional Mission to Reinforce Disability Policy in the Federated States of Micronesia

The rights of persons with disabilities in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will be the focus of a first-of-its-kind joint mission by the United Nations and Pacific Disability Forum, a regional non-governmental organization.

The aim of the mission to Pohnpei is to build substantial support for the implementation of the FSM’s national policy on disability – which the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific helped local authorities draft in 2006. The policy talks about an inclusive society, a barrier free society and that people with disabilities have the same set of human rights as all people.

“We would like to encourage and support people with disabilities in the Federated Sates of Micronesia and this mission is a step in that direction,” said Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP), adding that the visit will be the first time that a joint mission has been undertaken by and a regional non-governmental organization and ESCAP’s Pacific Operations Centre (UN-EPOC).

The mission will consist of Alastair Wilkinson, the Regional Adviser on Social Development and Planning from UN-EPOC, based in Suva, Fiji; and Setareki Macanawai, the chief executive officer of the Pacific Disability Forum, who is himself blind. The mission will take place 14-18 July, and it will include a one-day workshop with the FSM’s Department of Health, Education and Social Affairs on 16 July, to discuss disability policy. As well, Wilkinson and Macanawai will hold individual consultations with people with disabilities.

“When the FSM adopted its national strategic development plan in 2004 it called for people with disabilities to be engaged in the development of the nation. We want to help the FSM ensure that they are able to do that,” said Macanawai. “So we need to ensure that people with disabilities are involved in all development activities in all the four of the states of the Federated States of Micronesia, and we need to make sure that they are organised and can effectively advocate for the recognition and protection of their rights.”

Wilkinson said the mission will also update local authorities on the important regional and international developments concerning disability over the past year few years, particularly the passing by the United Nations General Assembly at the end of 2006 of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“The visit will demonstrate to the Federated States of Micronesia and other Pacific countries that non-governmental organizations play a crucial development role, particularly when it comes to addressing important social issues such as disability, raising awareness in the wider community and promoting human rights,” Wilkinson added.

ESCAP, established in 1947, is the regional development arm of the United Nations. The ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre, based in Suva, covers Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, American Samoa, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Niue and the Northern Mariana Islands.