How we’ve worked together over the years with Pacific Disability Forum

Stories | June 3, 2021

For more than 10 years, CBM Australia and the Pacific Disability Forum have been allied to bring about change and advocate for people with disabilities in the Pacific. So, who is the Pacific Disability Forum and why is our partnership with them so important?

Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) is a Fiji-based regional umbrella organisation that supports up to 71 organisations of people with disabilities across 22 Pacific Island countries and territories in various ways: from providing funding for disability activities and grass-roots programs, to offering capacity development and training in advocacy, law reform, inclusive data collection, budgeting and accessible infrastructure.

PDF also works to change systems and policies that exclude people with disabilities by connecting national governments, development partners and other stakeholders with organisations of people with disabilities. This allows for the sharing of priorities and raises awareness of the rights of people with disabilities and pre-conditions for inclusion at a national level as well as within UN agencies. This has brought about many positive policy changes throughout the Pacific, including increased access to education for women and girls with disability, and greater inclusion of people with disability in preparedness and response to emergencies, such as tropical cyclones and COVID-19.

Their presence in the region has grown exponentially over the past five years, especially influencing disaster preparedness and response. CBM has supported this growth by working to mobilise resources to enable PDF to strategise, increase staffing, form their Preparedness for Emergency Response Unit, and partner with key humanitarian organisations.

PDF’s CEO Setareki Macanawai speaks positively of the partnership, commending CBM for living and breathing the disability movement catch-cry “nothing about us without us,” and being “an advocate, resource on tap and a champion for us.”

CBM’s Inclusion Advisor Tamara Jolly says the relationship has been key to implementing activities in the Pacific. “Over the years we have developed a relationship built on trust. We are able to mentor and teach one another about disability inclusive development, and in partnership we are able to work to bring about positive change for people with disabilities that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.”

The recent global pandemic has seen the lives of people with disabilities catastrophically impacted as well as exacerbated existing barriers that prevent equal participation in society. CBM and PDF’s relationship has been especially valuable during this time, having worked together to roll out inclusive health messaging and advice, put pressure on governments to prioritise people with disabilities in all response measures and demand inclusive vaccine rollout.

During the ongoing pandemic “CBM has helped with papers on education, livelihood, social protection. They helped us in the drafting of these pieces and worked with dedicated staff”, said PDF’s Director of Operations Laisa Vereti. “It is a real working relationship; we can bounce ideas off each other.”

In 2020, PDF launched their fourth strategy, and this one is their most exciting yet. Towards an Inclusive and Resilient Pacific 2021-2015 sets out a range of ambitious goals, which CBM will be supporting, to ensure the Pacific moves from more than just recognition of rights of people with disabilities, but influencing to ensure those rights are realised.

Our relationship continues to go from strength to strength, with more opportunities on the horizon to work together to bring about greater change for people with disabilities in the Pacific.

Photo Caption: Fiji Disabled People’s Federation (a member of PDF) during a disaster risk reduction training in Suva, Fiji.

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