22 Dec 2017

Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – Together for Inclusion

From 3 to 10 December the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), together with its members and other Civil Society Organisations such DSW, organised the second edition of its European Disability and Development Week (EDDW) promoting the motto “Together for Inclusion”.

The celebration of the EDDW aims to promote the linkages between the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on the 3 December, with the International Day on Human Rights on the 10th of the same month. This highlights the fact that the rights of persons with disabilities are human rights, as it was established with the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The EDDW is organised with the cooperation of the European Union (EU) which is the first regional body to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and it is the biggest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

In this sense, several events were organised to promote the positive impact of including persons with disabilities in development cooperation policies and programmes, both in Brussels and other EU capitals such as Helsinki, Vienna or Athens.

A week of events – The EDDW in Europe

The week started with the Abilis’ event on DiDa (Disability Day Art & Action) on Sunday 3 December in Helsinki. The event was full of disability artists, performances of groups and individuals. The separate part of the event was the Photo Exhibition of Abilis showing the activities and outcomes of the Foundation’s development aid programme. The photo exhibition consists of 28 photos from different development projects, countries and DPOs. This beautiful exhibition opened the 20th anniversary of Abilis Foundation and many photos were shared through the Social Media during the week as part of the awareness raising campaign. The exhibition reflects well the focus of the Abilis work: active participation and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

On Monday 4 December, Südwind organised in Vienna a panel discussion on “Leave No One Behind – Inclusion of persons with disabilities” which gathered different representatives from mainstream development organisations as well as organisations of persons with disabilities at national level. The discussion focused on an inclusive and accessible implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On Tuesday 5 December, the European project Bridging the Gap-Inclusive policies and services for equal rights of persons with disabilities, was launched in a high-level meeting introduced by the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, together with a wide-range of partners experts, decision-makers, representatives and actors of the civil society.

"Through this new project, we are confident, we are not only promoting the rights and the potential of People with Disabilities but building a better world for all. A society which empowers, promotes and protects Human Rights and leaves no one behind is a stronger, more stable, more successful society for all", declared the Commissioner.

On Wednesday 6 two events took place. In Athens, a photo exhibition organised by the Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health which promoted a positive attitude towards persons with disabilities and its inclusion worldwide. In Brussels, a joint event on “Addressing the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action – A European perspective” organised by Handicap International (HI), CBM and the European Disability Forum (EDF). During this event, the main challenges on how to include persons with disabilities were highlighted as well as some good practices such as early identification of the needs of persons with disabilities in the registration processes.

On Thursday 7 December IDDC had the busiest day of the week with the organisation of four different events. Light for the World and DSW, in cooperation with the Permanent Representation of Finland to the EU, organised a roundtable on 'Increasing resilience: Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women with Disabilities'. This event brought together civil society (from both Europe and from developing countries) and institutional partners and discussed on the challenges girls and women with disabilities encounter with regards to accessing sexual and reproductive health. One of the main conclusions that came out of the event is that the gender movement and the disability movement should work together, to ensure the gender movement becomes truly inclusive, and that the disability movement mainstreams gender issues in its work and opens more to women, including in leadership positions. Following this event, CBM organised a lunch event on “The impact of inclusive education and employment for persons with disabilities, an example from Africa”. The event identified and explained the causes of the lack of inclusion of persons with disabilities in the labor market, which is increased with the lack of inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education. The discussion also highlighted the additional barriers that women and girls with disabilities face for being included in the community. Sexual violence was one of the examples that demonstrated the need for creating a safe environment for women and girls with disabilities both at education and employment level.

In addition, HI organised a roundtable on “Safe mobility: high stakes for persons with disabilities in developing countries – How could the EU support accessibility and road safety for the realisation of SDG 11 – Target 2”. The event counted on the participation of EU civil society actors, in diverse sectors, about the importance of improving road safety and the safe mobility of persons with disabilities, for the realisation of the SDGs in developing countries. Last but not least, the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) organised a battle debate in the European Parliament on “UN CRPD + SDG = (Art. 19) A real inclusion for all?” in which the compatibility of the CRPD and the 2030 Agenda was discussed regarding the right of persons with disabilities to be included in the community.

During this week the European Disability Forum (EDF), supporter of the EDDW, also organised a conference on the European Day of Persons with Disabilities and the 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities with the participation of more than 800 representatives of different organisations of persons with disabilities at EU level.

More inclusion in 2018

The EDDW counted on  the support of key stakeholders that will work closely with IDDC and its members in 2018. In addition, the EU stressed its commitment to support the needs of persons with disabilities throughout the EDDW. This is especially relevant since the Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner, Christos Stylianides, announced the increase of the funding dedicated to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the EU Humanitarian responses.

As a follow-up of the week, IDDC will organised a photo exhibition with the ten best pictures coming out of the photo contest, launched in November. We will keep working with the EU institutions and at national level through the Member States in order to ensure the that the 2030 Agenda is implemented in line with the CRPD.