Media Release - The first ever meeting of Forum Disability Ministers held in Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, 21 - 23 October has endorsed a Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability 2010 - 2015 to support member countries protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the region.

The meeting, attended by representatives from 13 Forum member countries, agreed that the Strategy will also provide a framework for the coordination of development partners, governments and civil society in building a disability inclusive Pacific. It will also strengthen commitment of all stakeholders towards implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other human rights instruments that relate to disability.

The adoption of a Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability is a response to the directive of Pacific Island Forum Leaders as well a response to the spirit and principles of the Pacific Plan on enabling Pacific people to live free and worthwhile lives in the context of increased regional integration

The outcomes of the Forum Disability Ministers' meeting state: "The Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability will provide a tool to assist countries to set national priorities to address the articles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."

The Forum Disability Ministers directed the Forum Secretariat and development partners to develop an implementation plan including a monitoring and evaluation framework and coordinate the mobilisation and provision of resources and technical assistance for Forum Island Countries to implement the Strategy.

The Ministers also endorsed the issue of disability inclusive development as part of government priorities in all Forum Island countries; and agreed to designate a focal ministry to deal with disability issues with allocated budgetary resources.

They recognised the complexities of the links between human rights and culture, and urged Forum Island Countries that have not done so to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the earliest practical opportunity.

The Forum Disability Ministers' meeting also acknowledged the contributions made by non-governmental organisations in Pacific Island countries to facilitate disability development activities at local, national and regional levels. They agreed to strengthen their governments' engagement with disability NGOs.

The Ministers requested the outcomes of their meeting to be conveyed to the Forum Economic Ministers' meeting that will take place in Rarotonga this week, so that disability issues can be included in the national planning process and in national sustainable development plans.