The Civil Society and disability representatives in Samoa have joined forces to urge the government to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (C.R.P.D) by December 2016.
The call follows a forum attended by disability representatives and civil society at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel in May to call upon the government for action.
The forum was hosted by the national advocacy organization for persons with disabilities, Nuanua O Le Alofa (N.O.LA), in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (O.H.C.H.R) and the Ministry for Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D).
Samoa signed the C.R.P.D in September 2014. The next step is to ratify the convention. Ratification is a process which will legally bind Samoa to implement the C.R.P.D.
The Associate Minister for M.W.C.S.D, Tofa Foleni Lio opened the forum by reaffirming the government’s commitment to realizing the rights of people with disabilities.
He spoke about the groundwork undertaken to prepare Samoa for ratification. Disability representatives and civil society have developed a joint position statement on C.R.P.D ratification, identifying priorities and key messages. The statement is as follows:
Ratify C.R.P.D by December 2016
The disability sector and its partners welcomed the announcement by the Government delegation to the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on the 3rd of May 2016 that Samoa intends to ratify the CRPD by December 2016.
The sector urges Government ownership of the ratification process and the importance of cross-governmental coordination of remaining tasks such as the CRPD Legislative Compliance Review within the limited timeframe.
Partnership between civil society and Government
The sector emphasizes the importance of a strong, inclusive partnership between civil society and government for successful CRPD ratification and implementation.
The sector welcomes continuing dialogue with Government about the differing roles of stakeholders for CRPD ratification.
Accessible, inclusive communities
CRPD ratification and implementation would result in more accessible, inclusive communities for all, including people with disabilities.
The sector noted that CRPD ratification will enhance government accountability and transparency.
Representatives of the disability sector reaffirmed that CRPD ratification is not just about living a life, but having a better quality of life.
The sector acknowledged Samoa’s budgetary constraints and thereby encourages Government to progressively implement its obligations. Participants emphasize that you cannot put a price on the importance of changing mindsets to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
The sector strongly agreed on the importance of accessible, easy to understand information about ratification and implementation processes for all Samoans, and encourages Government to scale up awareness raising activities in rural communities.
Representatives of the disability sector pointed out that people with disabilities, especially those that live in rural communities, risk being excluded due to inaccessible information and lack of consultation.
CRPD complements fa’asamoa and constitutional rights
Participants underlined core common values of the fa’asamoa and the CRPD in relation to respect, dignity, love, protection, and service.
Participants strongly believed that the failure to ratify the CRPD would undermine the equality of persons with disabilities as being equal before the law enshrined in the Constitution.
Participants urge Government to develop comprehensive, stand alone disability legislation to outlaw discrimination against people with disabilities.
Samoa’s international reputation for human rights
Forum representatives cautioned that the failure to ratify the CRPD would see Samoa being left behind on both regional and international levels in relation to human rights and disability inclusion.
The sector notes that CRPD ratification will facilitate access to donor funding and mutually affirms confidence from international development partners.
Mata’afa Faatino Utumapu, Office Manager of NOLA said “We are here to send a clear message: It is time to ratify the CRPD. As the leading disability peak body, NOLA understands that there are plenty of reasons to support the ratification of the CRPD – the first and most obvious is that it will ensure the full enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities. But there are also economic, environmental, and socio-cultural benefits for all Samoans in ratifying the CRPD. We urge Government to seize this opportunity and ratify by December 2016”.
This is a joint outcomes statement on behalf of:
6. Nuanua O Le Alofa
7. Office of the Ombudsman/NHRI
8. Pacific Disability Forum
9. Samoa Chamber of Commerce
10. Samoa National Youth Council
11. Samoa Shipping Cooperation
15. Special Olympics Samoa
17. Women in Business Development