Pacific Island Forum Secretariat Deputy Secretary General Cristelle Pratt’s Opening Remarks at the 2nd Pacific Community-Based Rehabilitation Meeting on Strengthening Rehabilitation Services in the Pacific

Tanoa International Hotel

Nadi, Fiji

29 September 2015

 

The Director of Pacific Technical Support and WHO Representative to the South Pacific, Dr Liu Jungchou
The Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Disability Forum: Mr Setareki Macanawai;
Distinguished delegates who have traveled from afar to attend this important meeting
Ladies and Gentlemen

I bring you warm greetings from the Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor and your Forum Secretariat and thank our partners the World Health Organisation and the Pacific Disability Forum for the invitation to deliver a few remarks at this opening of the 2nd Pacific Community-Based Rehabilitation Meeting on Strengthening Rehabilitation Services in the Pacific.

You may be aware that this year has been a special year for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat as the beginning of a new process toward deepening regionalism.

The Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR) endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2014 and its implementation commenced in earnest this year with the first call for submissions into the public policy process being made in April 2015.

A total of 68 submissions were received from individuals, national governments, regional and international organisations, development partners, and civil society and non-governmental organisations and institutions.

Out of the 68 submissions, five were recommended by the Specialist Sub-committee on Regionalism (SSCR) for Leaders consideration at their meeting in Papua New Guinea which was held earlier this month.

The five priorities endorsed by the Leaders include specific initiatives related to (i) maximising the economic returns from tuna fisheries; (ii) a strong and united political statement on climate change as we move toward COP21 and a new agreement in December 2015; (iii) securing the economic and educational opportunities that information communications and technologies offers for Pacific peoples (iv) the burden that cervical cancer places on women and girls of our region and by extension of that on our families and societies and economies, and (v) the need to uphold the human rights of all people in Papua and to work to address the root causes of such conflicts by peaceful means.

I would like to encourage organisations that have disability inclusive development as part of their agenda to remain cognisant of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism as an inclusive, public policy process that could provide opportunity for Forum Leaders to acknowledge disability inclusive development as a regional priority.

I wish to also inform this forum that out of the 68 submissions that were received this year, there were no submissions that were specifically about disability nor were there any submissions that sought to include disability-related issues.

Disabled persons and their communities look to us to play our role in making their issues and their role in development remain on the radar of our leaders and our respective ministers. It therefore behoves us to ensure that these are not overlooked.

As part of the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism – Leaders in July 2014 had also requested a review and rationalisation of regional meetings such as the various ministerial meetings held. This would need to include the Forum Disability Ministers Meeting (generally referred to as the FDMM).

For those that attended the last FDMM in Federated States of Micronesia, you would recall that the Ministers had left the timing and venue for the next FDMM to ensure that it could respond positively to a review and rationalisation process. This work is still underway.

Among the various options that are being considered is the possibility of holding joint ministerial meetings such as a meeting of the Forum Disability and Education Ministers, in order to consider common issues between these two important portfolios.

At the highest level Forum Leaders recognition that a long term approach is required to support the rights of persons with disability in the Pacific in 2013 has resulted in more focus and concentration of efforts; the progress that has been made would not have been possible if it weren’t for all agencies and organisations – international, regional, national and sub national that have and continue to focus their energy and efforts toward supporting the development aspirations of disabled persons from our region. a show of srengthened and continuedcommitment was expressed at the 3rd Forum Disability Ministers Meeting (FDMM) held last year, when Ministers endorsed the zero draft of the Pacific Disability Rights Framework 2016-2025: A regional framework for effective coordination and collaboration to support National Government action on disability inclusive development.

At the time Ministers requested the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, in collaboration with the Pacific Disability Forum, to undertake comprehensive and widespread consultations with all relevant stakeholders – at all levels and in all sectors. This is underway and we trust that these will enable feedback and input to refine and strengthen the Pacific Disability Rights Framework – as well as build trust, understanding and ownership. Ministers also agreed to consider a final draft of the Pacific Disability Rights Framework, based on outcomes of the consultations, for consideration and approval at the 4th FDMM – in 2016. To date the consultations have been very successful and effective and we appreciate very much the cooperation and support that has been given to develop the new regional strategy on disability.

If I may now turn to the subject of this the 2nd Pacific regional community based rehabilitation meeting – I am pleased that as part of the Forum Secretariat’s role and responsibilities in the disability agenda, we have been instrumental in providing support to national level actions in respect of policy and legislation that create an enabling environment for the implementation of Community-Based Rehabilitation structures, at national level. This partnership between PIFS and the World Health Organisation, the Pacific Disability Forum, and importantly National Governments and Disabled Persons Organisations is extremely important and invaluable for the Secretariat. Otherwise we would not be able to translate the policy commitments made at regional level into action at the national and local levels of our member countries.

We are extremely optimistic that the new Disability Rights Framework will contribute toward strengthening rehabilitation services and inclusive community development in the region. This, in concert with the current work by the Secretariat and key, mentioned partners on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the development of national disability policies and disability rights legislation will support the provision of services captured in Community-based Rehabilitation, which as we are all aware includes the right to highest attainable health, and the rights to education and assistive devices, and livelihoods for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

This meeting will allow a sharing of stories on how CBR has progressed, the key milestones that have been achieved and the lessons that have been learned in implementing CBR. The meeting will also allow for an exploration of how we as a region better can share these lessons – globally while at the same time using good practice models to inform new CBR efforts in other FICs through south-south exchange.

The review of your regional CBR Action Plan, the development of a new action plan as well as the framework for rehabilitation services in the region are each important steps in achieving this goal.

It is encouraging to hear of developments such as Fiji’s Mobile Rehabilitation Outreach Program, the Stroke and Amputation Rehabilitation in the Federated States of Micronesia, improved access to mobility device services in Samoa, and there are many more examples that will be shared during the course of the meeting by other members that are present.

Given the limited resources and the continuous challenges faced by our small island states, this meeting will provide opportunity for developing, collectively a strategy toward improving these services for all members and I would encourage you all to stretch yourselves and embrace innovation and creativity.

I appreciate very much this kind invitation to make these remarks at the session of this important meeting and wish each of you all the very best with your discussions over the course of the week which I trust will contribute toward outcomes that are constructive and build on the good work and efforts that have already been achieved.

Thank you very much.