Australia is providing $7.5 million in new initiatives to improve the rights of people with disabilities in developing countries, Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced today.
"An estimated 15 per cent of the global population — one billion people — live with some form of disability, and are among the poorest and most vulnerable in developing countries," Senator Carr said.
Australia will commit $4.5 million to the Pacific Disability Forum to empower people with disabilities to reach their full potential.
The Pacific Disability Forum is the regional umbrella network of Disabled Persons Organisations in the Pacific, and yesterday in Fiji it helped to stage an important event that brought together stakeholders from across the Pacific to discuss community-based rehabilitation approaches.
"People with a disability are often made to feel invisible and shut out of community life. The Pacific Disability Forum brings people with disability together to have a stronger voice for their rights with governments, civil society and development partners — at local, national and international levels," Senator Carr said.
"It provides leadership training for men and women with disability to lead social change in their countries and activities to increase community awareness and recognition of the needs and aspirations of Pacific people with disability."
Over the past year, Australia's partnership with the Pacific Disability Forum has helped 13 Disabled Persons Organisations across nine Pacific Island countries to raise awareness about disability rights in the Pacific. As a result, people with disability have been able to participate equally in developing national disability policies in Niue, Tuvalu, Palau, Tonga and Kiribati.
Seta Macanawai, Chair of the Pacific Disability Forum, thanked Australia for responding positively, effectively and generously to the aspirations of Pacific people.
"We have been very pleased to have a genuine and equal partnership with AusAID from the start, which is empowering to people with disabilities," Mr Macanawai said.
Senator Carr also announced a further $3 million for the Disability Rights Fund from 2012 to 2014, making a total Australian contribution of $6.2 million to the Fund since 2009.
In 2011, Australia's contribution supported the advocacy efforts of around 111 Disabled Persons Organisations across the globe to advocate for ratification and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As a result, more countries in our region have signed or ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
"Supporting Disabled Persons Organisations is an important part of AusAID's Development For All Strategy 2009-2014 which aims to support people with disability to improve the quality of their lives by promoting the same opportunities for participation, decision making and social and economic well-being as others," Senator Carr said.
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