UN supports Persons with Disabilities

Feb 24, 2017

Melinia Nawadra-Cinavilakeba (DFAT, Regional Program Manager), Setareki Macanawai (Pacific Disability Forum, CEO), Paul Deany (Disability Rights Fund, Program Officer) and Lizbeth Cullity, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative at the Pacific Regional Conference on Disability on 23 February 2017. Photo credit: UNDP/2017

The Fifth Pacific Regional Conference on Disability was held in Apia, Samoa, at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel from 20 to 24  February, 2017. 

The conference was jointly organised by the Pacific Disability Forum in partnership with Nuanua O Le Alofa and the Government of Samoa with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia. 

The event, celebrated every two years, is a platform where development partners, governments and NGOs share best practices, highlight gaps and discuss issues relating to the rights and participation of persons with disabilities.

“Building a more inclusive and equitable Pacific for all persons with disabilities” was the theme for the 2017 Conference. The dialogue focused on the role of the Sustainable Development Goals in creating a stronger region where no one is marginalised or left behind. 

Ms. Lizbeth Cullity, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Apia, Samoa was a panelist at one of the sessions of  the Conference and in her intervention she addressed the role that the United Nations plays in prioritising and supporting the rights of persons with disabilities in the Pacific.

“It is estimated than just under a million people in Pacific Island Countries, excluding Australia and New Zealand, are living with disabilities. They deserve our respect and practical concern for their human and social condition” – she said.

“Despite valuable developmental advancements enjoyed by Pacific countries in recent past years, we find, more often than not, that people with disabilities remain the poorest and least able to cope, and the most marginalised members of society” – she added. 

Ten UN agencies in the Pacific have engaged in a number of initiatives ranging from supporting national governments in the inclusion of people with disabilities’ needs into their policy planning, to  implementation of these polices. Most notably, it is through the adoption of two international frameworks,  the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action and the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” that the UN advocates for and promotes inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based societies in Asia and the Pacific region. The Incheon Strategy also established the world’s first set of disability-inclusive development goals.  

Ms. Cullity explained that through the UN and its partners’  work in this area, there was demonstrable evidence of improvement in the quality of life for people with disabilities when they actively voice their concerns and participate in decision-making around issues that affect them. 

“We will therefore continue to promote with Pacific governments and our partners inclusive development policies and strategies as a voice for people with disabilities, ensuring that disability issues are integrated into their development plans” – she concluded. 

Contact information

Article by Francesca Mondella.

For more Information, contact: Ms. Desna Solofa, UN Coordination Specialist

E-mail: desna.solofa@one.un.org - Phone: (685) 23670 ext. 34