RI Global From the Field: 10th Annual CoSP demands inclusion of PwDs in their own futures

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RI Global: Office of Communications

Contact: Adrian Brune, +1 347-759-9501

10th Annual CoSP demands inclusion of PwDs in their own futures

The largest and most diverse international disability meeting in the world took place at the United Nations in New York from 12-15 June, hosting experts and community leaders who called for greater recognition of a range of human rights for persons with disabilities.

Rehabilitation International had a full delegation attending the 10th annual Conference of States Parties (CoSP10) on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and co-hosted two meetings on assistive technology and urban development for all. The main theme of CoSP10 was The Second Decade of the CRPD: Inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the implementation of the Convention, but attendees also tackled such themes as addressing the impact of multiple discrimination on PwDs and promoting PwDs participation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Girls and Disability

“The Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD] is one of the most progressive human rights treaties, recognizing the role of the people it is trying to impact,” said Georgi Panayotov, the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN and the President of CoSP10, during the General Assembly to open the plenary. Also speaking, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, termed the Conference  “unprecedented”, but expressed concern over the lack of accurate and complete data on persons with disabilities, calling for a clear recommendation on methodology to collect disaggregated data.

After the GA session, RI Global Secretary-General Venus Ilegan spoke at the UN DESA/DSPD forum, Harnessing the power of women and girls with disabilities for inclusive society and development, a standing-room only side-event focused on strategies to legitimize and capacitate women and girls with disabilities. The panel also explored the multiple layers of discrimination disabled women face in their daily lives, including roadblocks to education, limited work opportunities, forced sterilization and sexual violence.

“Rehabilitation International has as its president a woman with disabilities. It has as its Secretary-General a woman with disabilities. Same with the leaders of the Asia and Middle East regions,” Ilagan said at the discussion. “Women with disabilities have what it takes to be leaders, and RI continues to harness their abilities. But we have in our organization the lucky ones; they are the exception rather than the rule. And this is the very reason we are here today –to make sure these women are included across the world.”

At the second RI Global side event, Assistive technology – a bridge to the society, RI, in cooperation with the Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Welfare, laid out the ways in which assistive technology was often the first step among many to ensure people with disabilities benefitted and contributed to any development process. While the CRPD had recognized access to assistive technology as a human right, only five to 15 percent of PwDs have access to assistive products, with even fewer in low- and middle-income countries.

“People with disabilities are everywhere these days, thanks to assistive technologies, which offer a solution to most if not all of the challenges people with disabilities face in their lives,” said Chapal Khasnabis, a technical officer with the World Health Organization (WHO). “Still, people with disabilities have developed some sort of coping mechanism of accepting whatever device is provided to them whether good or bad.

“But without these devices, People with Disabilities cannot participate in the activities around them. They are social beings. and assistive technologies are imperative to realizing their rights.”

RI Global lastly participated in the Forum on Advancing Accessible and Inclusive Urban Development for all, during which Maria Diotallevi of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), described the Draft Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics. The Convention of Tourism Ethics is designed to prompt more national tourism administrations to include accessibility as a central tenet of any sustainable tourism business strategy and integrate accessibility into all tourism infrastructure, products and services.

“There is no use in adapting the last generation urban hotel or airport terminal if there is no accessible vehicle to transport a customer from one point to another,” Diotallevi said. “Enhanced accessibility improves the overall tourism supply, provides new jobs, brings investment and helps the conversion of urban areas into ‘smart cities’”.

On the part of RI Global, Ilagan spoke about the experience of the organization’s 23rd World Congress held in October 2016 in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. “We broke ground in Edinburgh by engaging with tourism bureaus to plan for the conference and to leave something behind to make the city accessible and inclusive after we were done,” Ilagan said.

“RI’s legacy project fundamentally changed Edinburgh’s approach to accessibility and inclusion; Visit Scotland has since used the RI platform to make all of its site accessible.”

The Conference of States Parties is held each year to exchange experience and ideas for implementation of the Convention, adopted in December 2006 with the aim of promoting full equality and participation of persons with disabilities in society. There are currently 173 countries that have joined the Convention, making it one of the most widely ratified international human rights instruments.

Devandas Aguilar noted that the Convention shared many attributes of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015, and that by implementing the CRPD, countries made strides in accomplishing the SDGs.  With the start of the second decade of the Convention, Devandas Aguilar cited two areas where advancement would be particularly beneficial: social protection policies and support networks that are fully inclusive of persons with disabilities.

“In our societies everyone is supported. We do not notice anymore,” she said. “We live in a world that is designed to support able-bodied people, but persons with disabilities as part of diversity also need support, and their support is different.”