|President Mori, center, with Ministers and the Australian Ambassador to the FSM, second from left.|
FSMIS (October 8, 2014): The Third Pacific Forum Disability Ministers meeting is ongoing in Pohnpei, Federeated States of Micronesia with representatives from Australia, Cook Islands, FSM, New Zealand, Niue, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.
Representatives from Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, as well as the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat are joining the meeting via the internet from Cairns, Australia. Bad weather conditions has prevented these Ministers and officials from making their connecting flights out of Cairns to the FSM.
FSM President Manny Mori opened the meeting with a welcoming remark and thanked the Forum and meeting organizers for choosing the FSM as the host for the third meeting of the important conference.
"Two years ago, I added my signature to the many signatures of World Leaders supporting the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities at the United Nations in New York. Our Congress (FSM Congress) has yet to pass the necessary protocol to accede to the Convention; once ratified, their rights as members of the FSM will be respected and existing public facilities must be re-fitted and new ones must include special designs for the Disabled to easily access all public facilities.
The President urged the Ministers and participants at the meeting, including the others following through Skype from Cairns, to "chart a pathway forward" as the Pacific countries seek real ways of becoming more inclusive in safeguarding opportunities for all the people as a human rights obligation.
The opening meeting also featured a moving remark from Mr. Setareki Macanawi, the Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Disability Forum who spoke on behalf of the estimated eight hundred thousand persons with disabilities throughout the Pacific.
Mr. Macanawi spoke on the need to address the disconnect between countries and policies, statements and concrete actions. He acknowledged that addressing the difficult issues will require patience and the collaborations of all sectors, calling for Leaders and community members alike to take bold actions together.
Ms Cristelle Pratt, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, speaking through Skype from Cairns, thanked President Mori and the FSM Government for hosting the meeting. She provided an overview of actions and issues leading up to the meeting and thanked the Government of Australia for its support of the Forum and leadership in progressing disability programs through the years.
The Ministers will have their retreat today and continue with the review of other decisions toward the creation of a regional strategic framework to guide Members' actions in the near term.
A comprehensive release on the outcome of the meeting will be available from the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs after the meeting is complete and decisions are finalized.