Rehabilitation International (RI) Meets in New Zealand

May 20, 2014
Source: Rehabilitation International

In April 2014 the New Zealand Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) hosted the Executive Committee of RI for its mid-year regional business meeting, visitations to two unique disability programs in Auckland, a Wellington Parliamentary breakfast, and two seminars.  New Zealand’s origins as a country founded by a Treaty in the early 1800’s still influence today’s preferred mode of conducting business at all levels through negotiation.  DPA took on the responsibility to host and welcome the RI Executive as a way to bring in thinking from outside the country to encourage conversations on a wide range of topics, pairing international experts with local experts.  The seminars were very well attended by disabled people, providers, and government officials.  DPA’s approach to change using effective negotiation was obvious by the widely diverse seminar participants.  Anne Hawker, RI Immediate Past President, noted that “Article 32 of the UN Convention (CRPD) promotes capacity building, exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practice.”

RI representatives from four world regions were present, including North America (Susan Parker, RI Treasurer and Barbara LeRoy, Vice Chair for Education, and Madan Kundu, Vice Chair for Employment), Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Africa convened in Auckland for the two day Executive Committee meeting.  The agenda included a discussion of CRPD and United Nations activities, WHO disability interventions, new funding from Nippon Foundation on emergency preparedness, and the next RI World Congress.  With regard to the 2016 World Congress, RI has entered into a partnership with the Shaw Trust (London, UK) to sponsor and host the event.  The Executive Committee meeting ended with a lively musical presentation by a Samoan group of young people with disabilities.

On the third day of the New Zealand visit, a seminar was held in Auckland to address accessible travel, employment, and inclusive education.  Representatives from the associated RI commissions provided international perspectives on each issue while local agencies and advocates presented New Zealand perspectives.  The highlight of the conference was a presentation by New Zealand’s Honorable UN Ambassador (Ret), Don McKay, who provided an insightful and relevant perspective on the UN CRPD:  “the promised land – what has been the outcome?”  He repeated his address on April 16 at the Wellington seminar.


The Parliamentary breakfast, held in Wellington on the fourth morning of the New Zealand visit, was hosted by the Honourable Ruth Dyson, M.P., Chair of the Governmental Committee, now in her 8th 3-year term; she cites sponsorship of the “Sign Language Requirement” in 2006 as her most important achievement.  A Delegate to the UN in New York, she also worked to effect passage of the CRPD.  She spoke of her experiences in the Breakfast’s keynote along with Jan Arne Monsbakken, RI President from Norway. Mr. Monsbakken spoke about the RI emergency preparedness mission and the many activities currently underway to build this world initiative to  “mainstream disability in disaster risk reduction”.  The Asia-Pacific Region, led by Japan, is designing the initiative which includes a global action framework.

Following the 7:30 am breakfast, a seminar opened with Mr. McKay again discussing the CRPD, this time voicing lessons learned in response to a question.  Following the same format as the Auckland seminar, subsequent speakers (RI representatives followed by local professionals and advocates) spoke on effective policy setting – disability, women’s issues, and employment.

Anne Hawker, together with Brendon Murray, current president of DPA-NZ and Rachel Noble, Executive Director, DPA-NZ, served as the organizers of the business meeting, site visits, and seminars.  The New Zealand events culminated with a warm and welcoming dinner at Anne Hawker’s home overlooking the city of Wellington.

RI’s next meeting will be held in early October 2014 in Warsaw, Poland.  At that time the Executive Committee will meet as well as the yearly General Assembly.  During the General Assembly the next President of RI will be elected.