PRESS RELEASE - 17th August 2010 - The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and other stakeholders have begun work towards the implementation of the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability after it was endorsed at the 41st Pacific Islands Forum held in Port Vila, Vanuatu 3 - 6 August.

At the 40th Pacific Islands Forum held in Cairns, Australia last year, Forum Leaders reaffirmed the need for more attention to be directed to the region's most disadvantaged group - persons with disabilities - who are among the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

In October 2009, the Forum Secretariat organized the meeting of Ministers with responsibility for persons with disabilities in the Cook Islands during which the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability was endorsed.

A report of this meeting was submitted to the Forum Leaders at their meeting in Port Vila and was well supported as reflected in the 41st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' Communiqué issued on 5th August which states:

"Leaders reaffirmed their strong support for the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability endorsed at the Forum Disability Ministers: to support Pacific Island Forum member countries to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities; to provide a framework for the coordination of development partners, governments and civil society in building a disability inclusive Pacific; and strengthen commitment of all stakeholders towards implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other human rights instruments relating to disability.

Leaders recognised that the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability: reflects the reality and needs of the Pacific and its unique social, economic and geographic context; represents a common agreement on how to proceed and a means for sharing experiences and practices. Leaders agreed the Strategy provides effective guidance to Forum members in advancing their work on disability issues and allows the Forum Secretariat and other regional organisations, development partners and civil society a platform for engaging with governments on disability-inclusive development and progress at the national and regional levels."

"With the endorsement by Forum Leaders of the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability, the Forum Secretariat and other stakeholders are now working together on a detailed action plan and a monitoring and evaluation framework which are to be finalised soon," says Feleti Teo, Acting Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat.

Mr Teo added: "Consultations on the draft strategy were conducted widely with Disabled Persons Organisations at several regional meetings held since 2008 and 2009. Government focal points, which have been established in all of the Forum Island countries, will be consulted on the action plan for the strategy as well as regional and international organisations who deal with persons with disabilities."

Two meetings of government focal points and Ministers responsible for persons with disabilities is being proposed to be held in 2012 and 2014 to review the implementation of the Strategy.

Work on the Disability Strategy is also being coordinated with the Ministries of Education in the Forum Island countries through the Forum Education Ministers' Meeting and their officials meetings.