Governor General, H. E. Sir Rodney Williams, and Minister of Social Transformation, Dean Jonas, were among the officials present at the Tuesday opening of the 5th Congress of the Americas CBR/CBIA meeting in Antigua and Barbuda.
The congress, which is being held in the Caribbean for the first time, brings together the disabled community from Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss and formulate ways to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.
The conference, which concludes this Thursday, is being held under the theme, ‘Closing the Gaps, Reducing the Risks through Structured Dialogue and Networking’ at the Royalton Resort.
In his remarks, Minister Jonas noted that the theme of the congress is timely and relevant as it comes at a time when there is renewed focus in Antigua and Barbuda on developing the country’s legal framework and providing sustainable initiatives which will engage with, support, and empower people living with disabilities.
“The recent COVID-19 pandemic brought home the urgent need to close the gap sooner rather than later. Everyone was impacted, but more so those who were already susceptible to economic and social shocks.
“In addition to our extensive efforts to assist the needy and vulnerable, our government, and in particular the Ministry of Social Transformation, implemented the following initiatives which focused primarily on persons with disabilities: legislations and aquaponics among others,” he said.
Governor General Williams noted that the theme is a call to action which concisely conveys the actions required to improve challenges facing the disabled.
“It enables stakeholders and participants to better understand what is required to achieve these objectives. I am confident that the facilitators and presenters, through in-person and virtual formats, will guide the discussions and interactions in a manner that will assist you in achieving the desired outcomes,” he stated.
Sir Rodney added that understanding exists of the need for the disabled to have easy access to spaces for work, play, education, healthcare, and other services which is their fundamental human right.
“However,” Sir Rodney said, “we need to make this the norm rather than the exception or afterthought.”