‘Building inclusive societies starts from within our families, communities, local and national governments. When we are building our Pacific today and in years to come, we want to build a beautiful and inclusive Pacific where persons with disabilities are not left behind. Don’t build and inclusive Pacific for us, build it with us.’ ( Mr. Tapusoa Sarasopa Siliato, President of NOLA)
OMEKESANG Officers: Pres. Natus Misech & Sec. Tessy Nobuo
The 5th Pacific Regional Conference on Disability was held at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Apia, Samoa from 20th to 24th February 2017. The Conference was jointly organized by the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF), Nuanua O Le Alofa (NOLA) as host organization and the Government of Samoa with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia.
Palau’s OMEKESANG Association, an organization of, for, and by persons with disabilities and their families, attended the Conference with delegates and development partners from American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America and Vanuatu.
The PDF Conference is a platform for representatives from organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs), disability service providers and development partners to discuss issues about the protection, enjoyment and promotion of all human rights of all persons with disabilities and advancement of disability inclusive development in the region.
This 5th Conference was themed “Building a More Inclusive and Equitable Pacific for Persons with Disabilities” in alignment with the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS).
The Conference participants discussed effective, relevant and culturally appropriate strategies for building an inclusive and equitable Pacific for ALL persons with disabilities. The Conference provided opportunities to consider a variety of international and regional frameworks and treaties that can be used to promote, guide and achieve our goals. This includes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), SDGs, Universal Periodic Review, UNESCAP’s Incheon Strategy “To Make the Right Real for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific Region” 2013-2022, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and, importantly, our own Pacific Framework for the Right of Persons with Disabilities (PFRPD) 2016-2025.
Concurrent forums focused on women and girls with disabilities as well as youth with disabilities were held on 20 and 21 February 2017. The Women’s Forum enabled women leaders with disabilities to share thoughts, insights and experiences on priority areas. The Youth Forum provided space for young people to discuss how they can contribute to and benefit from an inclusive and equitable Pacific.
His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Head of State, The Independent State of Samoa, opened the conference with a story about the importance of culture and inclusion, noting that including everyone is an important principle of a village and every person must celebrate and demand inclusiveness. His Highness’ message was shared by Her Excellency Sue Langford, Australian High Commissioner, in her keynote address. She said that persons with disabilities need to be the voice to discuss what affects them and what changes they want to see, and called for effective partnerships to achieve progress.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms Catalina Devandas Aguilar highlighted that the CRPD ‘is a big change and has created big change.’ She confirmed that globally there is a move beyond advocacy and awareness to the question of how to implement and monitor the CRPD. The CRPD is the tool to guide States to implement the SDGs, develop and implement inclusive national policies and advocate for a more inclusive UN system. She confirmed that persons with disabilities must be engaged in the processes of decision making. She said ‘we can make the change we want in the community. Everyone is going in the right direction. With your commitment, you are making things different and you will continue to see changes in the years to come.’
The Conference marked the 10 year anniversary of PDF. Mr. Setareki Macanawai, the CEO of PDF said ‘We have sailed ten years in our canoe but have not reached our destination yet; we have been fighting for our issues over the years, but the battle is yet to be won. The celebration is everyone’s, it is our celebration. It is also our shared responsibility to work together to reach our destination.’ [/restrict]