Pacific unites on disability stats

By Adel Fruean 18 July 2020, 9:00AM

A two-day virtual meeting on Thursday officially launched the Pacific Group on Disability Statistics, dedicated to collecting data on people with a disability in the region so they may have sufficient services. 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, addressed the forum on Thursday and congratulated all the statistical offices, disability organisations, United Nations teams, donor partners, and all who worked together to establish the Group for the first time.

The Prime Minister also spoke about children and adults living with disabilities who face many life challenges. These include, but are not limited to, the Prime Minister said, people’s vision, hearing, mobility, communication, concentration, self-care and others. These restrictions often prevent people from full participation in activities at their own homes, the community, and, at the national level.

Tuilaepa said that the principle of “leaving no one behind” is part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and means bringing people living with disabilities to the centre of national life.

“The Pacific Framework for the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities was endorsed by the Forum Leaders in 2016,” he said. 

“This framework supports the Pacific Governments to promote, protect, and fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities.

“The Pacific Framework has five broad goals,” he said. 

“Goal one focuses on livelihoods: to promote opportunities through inclusive economic development and decent work. 

“Goal two focuses on mainstreaming: to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities are included in development strategies, national and local policies, and community services. 

“Goal three focuses on leadership and [the] enabling environment: to develop leadership and an enabling environment for rights-based disability-inclusive development. 

“Goal four focuses on disaster risk management: to include persons with a disability in climate change adaptation measures, and disaster risk management plans and policies.

“And, the last goal focuses on evidence: to strengthen disability research statistics and analysis.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa added that he was very pleased to note that the last Goal of the Pacific framework links directly to the work programme of the “Pacific Group on Disability Statistics” and, more importantly, the theme is “Disability Statistics Matter”.

“Evidence from Samoa’s 2016 Population Census revealed that there are significant disparities in Education and Economic Activities between ‘People with disabilities’ and ‘People without disabilities’, with the former being largely left behind. Similar evidence is also revealed in other countries.

“It is critical to note that only 12 out of 22 Pacific island countries have already adopted the standard disability measurement tools which have been developed by the United Nations Washington Group on Disability Statistics for the U.N. member states.

“If we are to stand as a region, then we must all adopt standard disability tools to better inform our Pacific Forum leaders in a comparable and consistent manner. On this note, I would like to thank the UN Washington Group for sharing the standard disability tools and also the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (D.F.A.T.) Australia for financial support in disability initiatives.”

Tuilaepa said the goals of the summit would only be realised if all those in attendance committed to pursuing the necessary work in collaboration with disability organisations and partners in Australia and New Zealand. 

“While the spread of COVID-19 is impacting all the world economies, it is difficult times like these that we stand together as a Pacific region, by reaching out to our most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups like people with disabilities, to ensure that they will not be left behind, from our national data, policies and interventions, as well as technical and financial support,” he said. 

Tuilaepa acknowledged the work of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the United Nations Children's Fund, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Pacific Disability Forum, Fiji and the Samoa Bureau of Statistics for establishing the forum. 

By Adel Fruean 18 July 2020, 9:00AM

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