FSM poised to ratify the Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disability

SEP 2016

With the September Regular Session of Congress approaching this month, the FSM National Government is preparing itself to make good on its intentions to ratify the Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disability (CRPD) and begin the process of implementation. FSM took an important first step towards ratifying the Convention nearly five years ago, in September 2011. Then FSM President, H.E. Emmanuel A. Mori, signed the CRPD at the 66th UN General Assembly in New York, thereby indicating FSM’s intention to ratify in the near future. Two months following signing, the 17th FSM Congress sought to approve ratification by introducing a resolution on 19 November 2011, in accordance with Section 4 of Article IX of the FSM Constitution. But instead of going through the ratification and making this a “top down” approach to implementing the convention, Congress resolved to postpone this decision until all four states had been consulted. That process was lengthy as each state handles these decisions in their own time and according to state priorities. The outcome of the consultations, which took four and a half years, led to each state adopting a resolution for FSM to ratify the CRPD.

On 30 April 2015, the 11th Kosrae State Legislature, First Special Session, adopted a resolution formally expressing support for CRPD ratification. The state recognized the “need to improve the rights, services, and treatment programs to facilitate an inclusive and barrier-free society of disabled persons in the FSM,” and the “obligations of our nation and our state to provide free access and special services to persons with disabilities in public and private areas.”
A resolution to support CRPD ratification was also adopted by the 13th Chuuk State Legislature, First Regular Session, on 30 April 2015. The state acknowledged the efforts of other countries to uphold the dignity, worth, equality and inalienable rights of persons with disabilities and the need to establish state laws for their protection.
On 20 May 2015, the 9th Legislature of the State of Yap, First Regular Session, expressed unequivocal support for ratification and urged Congress to fulfill “deep and abiding responsibilities and moral obligations in addressing and meeting the needs of our disabled persons through accomplishing the objectives set forth in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and through our own careful initiatives as citizens of the FSM.”
On 18 March 2016, the 9th Pohnpei State Legislature, First Special Session, expressed its “utmost support” for ratification, acknowledging the “great need to improve rights, services and treatment programs to promote and facilitate an inclusive and barrier-free society for persons with disabilities here in the FSM.”
The FSM Department of Health and Human Services has drafted a resolution for FSM President Christian to transmit to Congress that would seek their ratification of the treaty. The resolution is currently with the FSM Attorney General’s office and should be sent to the President’s office for review and recommendations before the September session of Congress according to FSM Attorney General Joses Gallen. The timing could be better as FSM has just had it’s consulations with the United Nations on the new Sustainable Development Goals who theme is “Leave No One Behind.”
By ratifying the Convention, FSM will be assuming the legal obligation to work steadily towards implementing its provisions. Only certain civil and political rights will need to be enforced immediately in accordance with international law. These rights include the right to life; liberty and security of the person; freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse; and freedom of expression and opinion. Other general obligations of countries which have ratified the Convention involve the following:
taking all appropriate measures (legislative, administrative and other measures) to implement all rights recognized under the CRPD;
revising or abolishing any discriminatory laws;
mainstreaming disability through all policies and programs;
taking steps to eliminate discrimination by any company, organization, or private individual;
promoting the development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities and affordably priced technologies, aids and devices suitable for persons with disabilities;
providing accessible information to persons with disabilities about available support services, aids and devices;
promoting CRPD training of all professionals and staff working with persons with disabilities;
closely consulting with and actively involving persons with disabilities through their representative organizations when developing and implementing disability policies and legislation and in other decision-making processes.

FSM has already begun work to make the country more inclusive for persons with disability. The FSM Government has had a National Policy on Disability in place since 2009 which is based on the principles of inclusiveness, the removal of exclusionary physical, social and cultural barriers, and the protection of human rights. The policy expires this year, 2016, and is up for renewal. In addition to this, the FSM government currently receives an annual 4 million USD grant for special education (0 to 21 years) under the Compact of Free Association with the United States. This assists with defraying the costs of such things as transportation and special assistance for children with disabilities. Each state government already has its own program for children with disabilities up until 21 years of age. There is scope for improving the mainstreaming of disability in other sectoral grants under Compact funding as well; for example health care and public infrastructure grants.
The FSM Government is in the preliminary stages of reviewing all national legislation for CRPD compliance with technical assistance from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Office of UNESCAP. Both organizations are also assisting with reviewing and revising the national disability policy together with the Pacific Disability Forum. Ratification in the near future would enable both activities to be reported as implementation measures in FSM’s initial CRPD report.
By ratifying the Convention, FSM will subscribe to international standards governing the rights of persons with disabilities; make a long-term commitment to implement the provisions of the Convention in order to improve the lives of Micronesians living with disabilities; and demonstrate commitment to removing discriminatory barriers, integrating disability issues into all existing policies, laws and programs, and promoting disability inclusive development. As FSM is only one of five Pacific Nations which has not ratified this convention and the only one in the North Pacific, it is time for our nation to show its support for human rights and to ratify this import convention.