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Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.5 Disability may be experienced by people of any age – children, young and older people.

Everyone is entitled to the same rights and freedoms, regardless of their disability status. This is a fundamental principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Vanuatu ratified in 2008. However, persons with disabilities often lack equitable access to the same opportunities enjoyed by their peers without disabilities. Barriers such as negative attitudes and stigma, an inaccessible built environment, and exclusionary policies can restrict persons with disabilities from enjoying their rights to education, health care, employment and other opportunities.

Disability inclusive development is both a process and an outcome. The purpose of disability inclusive development is to realize an inclusive society that values diversity and engages persons with disabilities as participating members of society with equal rights. The disability inclusive development approach brings the disability perspective into all elements of national and community development. It assesses and strengthens institutions, policies and programs so that they better take into account, and positively impact on, the lives of persons with disabilities.

The process of disability inclusive development meaningfully and effectively engages persons with disabilities in development processes to challenge and address inequities. Persons with disabilities are not a homogeneous group. Disability inclusive development initiatives must consider the various perspectives and experiences of older people, men, women, girls, boys, youth and children with a range of different impairments, and diverse experiences of disability.

Disability inclusive development is often implemented according to the twin track approach, which requires action along two vectors: mainstreaming across legislation, policies, programs and activities at all levels, and implementing targeted efforts that improve access to the particular accommodations and services required specifically by persons with disabilities.

In Vanuatu, many gains have been made under the auspices of the National Disability Policy 2008 – 2015. These include the establishment of a Disability Desk within the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MJCS) as the Government of Vanuatu’s disability coordination agency, the development of the Inclusive Education Policy and Strategic Plan 2010 – 2020 and the National Disability Inclusion Policy for the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Sector 2016 – 2020. Vanuatu’s National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP), known as Vanuatu 2030: The Peoples Plan, formalises a national commitment to disability inclusion and rights through multiple disability inclusive objectives and indicators.

The Vanuatu National Disability Inclusive Development Policy 2018 – 2025 was developed following an extensive participatory review of the Vanuatu National Disability Policy 2008 – 2015. The policy review and redevelopment process included stakeholder workshops and individual consultations at the national and provincial levels, which occurred between September 2015 and December 2017. The eight strategic priority areas outlined in this policy arose during consultations with national and provincial government, and civil society organisations including persons with disabilities themselves and their representative organisations.

This policy aspires to be a guiding document for disability inclusive development that will build on achievements made under the Vanuatu National Disability Policy 2008 – 2015. This policy acknowledges the central role persons with disabilities across all islands and communities have as active participants in determining and achieving their rights. The policy sets ambitious goals, which will guide the efforts of all stakeholders, who will work together to maximise resources and efficiencies to support progress towards these goals in a resource-constrained environment.

The Vanuatu National Disability Inclusive Development Policy 2018 – 2025 activates the commitments the Government of Vanuatu has made by ratifying the CRPD, and throughout Vanuatu 2030: the Peoples Plan, to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities in Vanuatu wherever they are.