NOTE: The author of this guest post is Patricia Chamorro. Patricia received a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations, December 2014, from the School of Diplomacy at Seton Hall University. Her concentrations were on International Organizations and a regional focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. She is interested in advocating for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Latin American region. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the City of San Antonio Head Start Program.
During the 8th session (June 9-11, 2015) of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), leaders called for commitment from countries to create and enforce laws and other measures that guarantee human rights, and end customs and practices that have perpetuated the discrimination of persons with disabilities. The 8th session highlighted the many areas where the rights of persons with disabilities have been forgotten, like in poverty reduction strategies, gender inequality, education, emergency crisis management, and more. Leaders of government and civil society are advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Post-2015 negotiations and overall participation in governments to avoid exclusion in policy making.
Lenin Moreno, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Disability and Accessibility, stated in his address on June 11th, that he sought complete inclusion of the CRPD in the Post-2015 negotiations to avoid what happened with the Millennium Development Goals, where the rights of persons with disabilities were excluded. The inclusion of the CRPD and increased global participation of persons with disabilities will bring the opportunity for a bottom-up approach wherein civil society can lobby for policies, better social services, and more. The social change we are seeing is the change in perception of quality services for persons with disabilities from charity to basic human rights across the board.
CRPD matters because the reality is that persons with disabilities are among the most forgotten in practically all regions of the world. According to the UN, about one billion people live with some sort of disability, and more than 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. As per the World Bank report on Disability and Poverty in Developing Countries, persons with disabilities have less opportunity for quality education, employment, quality health care, and they suffer the burden of high medical expenses, all of which affect the individual and the family economically and emotionally. Along with this focus on sustainable development and poverty reduction, the Conference highlighted certain focus areas that are also being addressed by key partnerships with civil society and government officials.
First, advancing the needs of women and girls with disabilities is a key priority, as this group experiences multiple forms of discrimination and face additional obstacles in achieving safety, equality and advancement. According to Human Rights Watch, women and girls with disabilities run the risk of isolation, marginalization and are at higher risks of violence in their homes, schools, and health care facilities. Kristin Hetle, Director of the Strategic Partnerships Division at UN Women, was at the Conference and was able to present on their work to promote the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities on a global scale.
Second, Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, called for quality and inclusive education for children and youth with disabilities. According to UNESCO, more than 90 % of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend schools. Education has to address the needs of children and adults with disabilities and there needs to be different approaches for different types of disabilities. The Convention addresses the issue of accessibility to schools for persons with disabilities. There is a strong link between poverty and persons with disabilities, and if persons with disabilities are not receiving the education and training they require, then this exclusion will continue to prevent them from breaking the cycle of poverty.
Third, the Conference highlighted the inequities persons with disabilities encounter in emergency situations such as wars or natural disasters. Unfortunately, persons with disabilities lack the accessibility to relocate to safety zones and to benefit from international aid. An example of these hardships occur in refugee camps where children with disabilities are excluded from education, women with disabilities face higher risks for safety, there is lack of accessibility (transportation, ramps, sign language interpreters, etc) and more. The World Humanitarian Summit’s (WHS) report, Working with Persons with Disabilities in Forced Displacement, identifies the many needs of persons with disabilities, which can be challenging in times of emergency, but that will have to become a priority in this goal of inclusiveness for persons with disabilities.
The overall consensus from civil society is that data collection and reporting is still a challenge in efforts to identifying the needs of persons with disabilities in every participating country. There is also not enough research on the effects of continued exclusion and sustainable development. There is a data gap where some countries lack basic census information on the actual number of persons with disabilities, while other countries have accurate data on numbers and type of disabilities. Leaders called for the standardization of data reporting and to explore global compatibility of statistics and data for a disability inclusive development framework. Perhaps a simpler tactic now is to increase the sharing of best practices among participating countries and increase global media attention. The increased media coverage on this issue will gain more political attention and support for civil society that is working on addressing this immediate need of data collection and reporting.