Mr. Chairman, let me congratulate you and your able bureau for the convening of this second session of the Ad Hoc Committee. We offer you our full support and cooperation and fully confident of the successful outcomes at the end of the two weeks deliberations.
Mr. Chairman, the human rights of people with disability is enshrined in the Fiji Constitution as a prohibited ground for discrimination. This marks the progressive shift from the conception of disability as a social welfare issue to a rights-based notion. It also recognises the people with disability not as victims but as human agents for positive change processes.
The Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons Act 1994 established the Fiji National Council for the Disabled as the national coordination mechanism for all organisations dealing with the care and rehabilitation of people with disabilities. The Fiji Human Rights Commission Act 1999 prohibits discrimination on the ground of disability, in inter alia, the following areas: employment, trade or licenses, professions, housing, land, accommodation and education. The government has also facilitated programmes to assist people with disabilities with individual government agencies. In addition, the Social Justice Act 2001 forms the basis for positive discrimination programmes, in compliance with the constitutional mandate for disadvantaged groups or categories of persons. People with Disability are targeted beneficiaries of affirmative action programmes under this Act.
Mr. Chairman, despite the current legislative framework for the implementation of constitutional safeguard, people with disability in Fiji are still among the most disadvantaged due to their lack of access to a wide range of basic services. Direct and indirect discrimination do persist as manifest in the social, attitudinal and physical barriers they face daily. One of the positive influences of international instruments, whether a convention or a protocol, is that it gives impetus to the development of legislative and policy interventions at the national level, with suitable support mechanisms at the regional or subregional levels
Fiji has now embarked on a National Disability Action Plan that has emerged from consultations between Government, the Fiji Human Rights Commission and Disability NGOs. The goals and priority areas of this Action Plan resonate with those identified in the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action Towards an Inclusive, barrier-free and right-based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. The plan identifies the support of the government of Fiji for the elaboration of a binding instrument that would enhance the directions set by the national action plan.
The priority areas in the action plan are education, access to public places, provision of housing, access to places of worship, access to information and communication, adequate provision of social security, provision of adequate and appropriate health care, access to employment, sports and recreation and support services.
The government of Fiji is tasked with the setting up of a Cabinet committee in the future to oversee the implementation of the action plan and contributions to the discussion on a future instrument or convention. The instrument would have to be broad-based in scope in order to cater for the differing levels of economic capacity and development in different countries, and at the same time be comprehensive, inclusive and holistic. It therefore should provide a platform for international assistance to developing countries to implement binding obligations.
Women, children and the aged with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged and deserve to be recognised as a particularly vulnerable group.
Working groups and /or consultative groups are effective means of engendering grassroots level consultations if these are convened on regional and sub regional basis. Subregional consultations would enhance relevance and enable sub regions such as SIDS in the Asia-Pacific region to consult and interact widely and fully.
The proposed convention would help influence policy and the development of appropriate legislation. As reiterated by DESA at the opening session, over 80% of disabled people are located in developing countries. Any future instrument should also formulate how international resource may be better mobilized within the WSSD, MDGs and the Financing for Development targets to implement its goals and abjectives.
I thank You
19 June 2003