PRESS STATEMENT - Friday, 4th December 2009INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES:UN and Pacific regional organisations welcome progress in addressing rights of persons with disabilities

These were the sentiments expressed by key stakeholders on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities held yesterday (December 3rd).

The Pacific Disability Forum, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Pacific Operations Centre (UN-EPOC), welcomed the advances the Pacific has made in addressing the needs of persons with disabilities.

Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, noted that Pacific Islands Forum countries recently committed to the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability, which will be implemented over a five year period (2010-2015) by governments in collaboration with civil society, regional stakeholders and development partners.

"This sort of commitment is a milestone for our region, as we are just beginning to appreciate the gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in aspects of the political, social, economic and cultural life of our communities," said Mr Slade.

UN-EPOC Regional Adviser Social Development and Planning, Mr Alastair Wilkinson, added: "Eight Pacific island countries have either passed or are in the final stages of approving rights-based policies. Some have established national disability advocacy and coordination mechanisms and four countries have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."

Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Disability Forum, Mr Setareki Macanawai, noted that disabled persons organisations have played a leading role in advancing awareness of disability in Pacific communities and have actively engaged governments to develop policy.

"We are very pleased that Pacific Island Ministers responsible for disability were so enthusiastic in their support for a Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability and we hope that this will be a useful policy and implementation tool to assist countries address national priorities."

Pacific island countries have supported disability initiatives on the regional political agenda since 2003 when the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action was adopted by Forum Leaders.