The Forum Disability Officials meeting commenced on Tuesday at the Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi where senior officials of government ministries responsible for disability issues are convening to dialogue on various issues related to disability inclusive development in the Pacific region.
In her welcome remarks the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Ms. Cristelle Pratt reminded participants that, “the reality is that in many – if not all societies, disability and poverty can form a vicious cycle”.
Ms Pratt further stated that, “persons living with disabilities are too often faced with additional barriers – such as access to education and training, which may limit job opportunities, and in turn may lead to poverty, social exclusion and restricted access to basic human rights that most people take for granted.”
The meeting has been made possible through the funding support from the Australian Government towards the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability (PRSD).
Ms Solstice Middleby, Counselor Pacific Regional Programme of the Australian High Commission, Fiji, reaffirmed that “the Australian government is proud to support the implementation of the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability as endorsed by Pacific Island Forum Leaders in 2009.”
Ms Middleby in addressing country delegates was confident that “we will continue to see measurable changes at the government and community levels to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities in your respective countries.”
Further, Ms Middleby said, “development assistance will only be effective and achieve poverty reduction if it reaches and benefits people, including those people with disability.”
The meeting will be held over the next two days with presentations on various topics covering disability issues and initiatives at global and regional levels, with a strong focus on the human rights instruments pertaining to persons with disabilities.
A major objective of the meeting is for country officials to discuss and agree on the agenda and working procedures for the upcoming Forum Disability Ministers Meeting in October this year, to be hosted by the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia.
The meeting will also be presented with the Mid Term Review of the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability (PRSD) and a concept note on the Long Term Approach to Disability in the Pacific.
As the current Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability (PRSD) will come to an end in 2015, an important discussion that will also take place this week is consideration and further development of the Long Term Approach for disability in the Pacific that will replace the Pacific Regional Disability on Disability (PRSD) post 2015.