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Disability in the Pacific

According to UNESCAP, an estimated 17% of people in the Pacific have some form of disability. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) estimated a total of 10,048,943 people lives in the Pacific as of 2013. Hence, these figures indicated that there are an estimated 1.708 million persons with disability in the Pacific.

These 1.708 million persons with disabilities in the Pacific face many entrenched cultural and physical barriers to full participation, as well as exclusion from communities, education and the workplace. A lack of physical accessibility and social attitudes towards disability mean that persons with disability are often left out of community life.  
Persons with a disability not only enjoy less human rights than others, they suffer from invisibility within their communities. According to the International Labour Organization, lack of awareness in the community and discrimination and “negative attitudes, prejudice, ignorance and apathy of policy-makers and the community” are other problems that persons with disabilities in the Pacific face.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat claims that the “effects of disability-based discrimination have been particularly severe in fields such as education, employment, housing, transport, cultural life and access to public places and services”
Less than 10% of children with disabilities in the Asia Pacific region attend school, compared to 70% of children who do not have a disability. These low levels of educational attainment lead to high unemployment of persons with disabilities, which UNEnable estimates as double that of the general population. According to the International Labour Organization, the rate of unemployment for persons with a disability in the Asia Pacific Region ranges from 50% to 90%.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

15 Pacific Island Countries have signed or ratified the CRPD. Signing of the convention means that a state gives preliminary endorsement to the convention, but does not a commit to ratification. States that sign the convention must refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose. Ratification means that the state agrees to be legally bound by the terms of the Convention.

  • Australia
  • Cook Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Samoa
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu
Signed but not Ratified
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga 

More information on disability in the Pacific

You can find information about disability in the Pacific at our research page.  For more information on disability organisations that work in the Pacific, visit our other resources page and members page. Information on government policies and legislation in Pacific Island Countries can be found on the policies and legislation page.