PRESS RELEASE - 10th August 2011 - There must be a change of attitude and perception on how to address disability issues not only at the policy level but also at the operation level in the Pacific region.

In his remarks at the start of the 2nd Forum Government Focal Points for Disability Meeting in Nadi, Fiji today, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Feleti Teo said there is also "the need for strong partnership between government, civil society, development partners and those organisations responsible for the interests of persons with disabilities."

"The challenge of addressing disability issues, in particular, the issues and concerns of persons with disability is not a new challenge. A challenge that has existed for many years. One, unfortunately that has been neglected for far too long," said Mr Teo.

But, Mr Teo said "it is pleasing to observe, that attention and focus on addressing the issues of persons with disability has intensified and gathered strong moment in the last decade or so, not only at the global level but more recently at the regional and national level.

According to World Bank estimates in 2007, persons with disabilities represent an estimated 10 percent of any population. This means there are likely to be some 800,000 Pacific Island people with disabilities. And this number will increase with ageing population, increase in chronic health conditions, and lack of early identification, intervention and referral services.

Forum Secretariat Deputy Secretary General, Mr Teo said: "It is important that national governments work closely with regional and international organisations and civil society in supporting disability inclusive developments. In particular, disabled persons organisations must be included in all level of discussions and policy development and implementation. The change of attitude and perception in policies and legislative frameworks must also be translated to those Officials that are responsible for the implementation of those frameworks and policies."

"The work and support of development partners are critical in supporting countries in their national efforts in promoting and supporting disability inclusive developments. But development partners must be clear as to which areas their resources would be spent."

Mr Teo said that the work and contribution of national disabled persons organisations must be acknowledged and commended, in particular, the work of the Pacific Disability Forum, a regional NGO based in Fiji.

Mr Teo acknowledged the work of Australia, the Secretariat for the Pacific Community and the International Labour Organisation in supporting work on disability inclusive development in the region.

The three-day Government Focal Points for Disability meeting attended principally by government representatives from Forum Island countries, organizations working for people with disabilities in the region, development partners and CROP agencies, will also raise awareness of the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability (PRSD), its action plan, and monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Meeting is also attended by representatives from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, International Labour Organization, USP and the Pacific Disability Forum.

The meeting will also discuss capacity building in policy development with regard to the implementation of the PRSD and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Participants will consider how to strengthen the partnership between governments in Forum island countries and Disabled Peoples Organisations at the national level in their work towards signing, ratifying and implementing the Convention.

They will also discuss the various initiatives undertaken by Pacific Island Countries at the national level in the recent past and share ideas on good practices and challenges.

The meeting is coordinated by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and funded by the Government of Australia through AusAID.