Lieke playing football with Koenders

From 14-16 June 2016, the 9th Conference of State Parties (COSP) to the CRPD was organized in New York. Bert Koenders (Minister of Foreign Affairs) gave a statement on behalf of the Dutch government. A special moment, since the Dutch parliament recently ratified the Convention.

Koenders: “People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to being left behind. They are often faced with discrimination, marginalisation and limited access to labour markets, basic rights and services. Women and girls with disabilities are even more vulnerable. Their rights deserve special attention and protection“. 

Dicky Nieuwenhuis (DCDD) and Lieke Scheewe (Light for the World) visited the COSP-conference on behalf of DCDD. The Permanent Mission of the Netherlands organised an event to ask attention for peace, development and sport, including an adapted sports event. Lieke prepared a statement, which she (partly) shared during the meeting – see below. And last but not least, she was invited by Minister Koenders to open the adapted sports event.

Lieke Scheewe and Dicky Nieuwenhuis in front of the UN flag
Lieke Scheewe and Dicky Nieuwenhuis

Sport can change perceptions. It helps to fight the discrimination faced by persons with disabilities every day. Because every day people with disabilities are confronted with the assumptions being made about their inability: when they’re considered unable to work, unable to make their own decisions or to contribute to their communities. Through inclusive sports, such as shown by the Dutch Mission and the Johan Cruiff Foundation at the UN today, persons with disabilities are supported – not only to rediscover their own abilities – but also to demonstrate their ability to the world around them. When we asked Manuela Bitone, who’s a passionate wheelchair basketball player in Mozambique, about her experience, she said: “In the past I was ashamed to leave the house; sport has really changed my life.” So when we talk about inclusive development, post-conflict peacebuilding, and leaving nobody behind, sports can really be a powerful tool for empowerment.

But we cannot leave it at that. We must also go beyond empowerment of people with disabilities and work on the systemic barriers that prevent them from participating in society on an equal basis with others. That is why we – the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD)- are really happy that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has now been ratified by the Netherlands. It marks a very important moment in the history of disability rights in our country. As was very well stated by our Minister Koenders at the Conference of State Parties to the CRPD yesterday: “By ratifying the CRPD, the Netherlands is now making clear that people with disabilities are full members of society and nobody can be excluded.”

The Minister rightly emphasized the importance of this message for international cooperation as well, including situations of risk and humanitarian crisis. In such situations persons with disabilities are not only extremely high in number, they are also at extremely high risk. They are the ones who have become severely injured during wars and earthquakes. Once disabled, they are the ones who don’t manage to seek refuge to safer areas. Yet, they are the ones left behind by most of the programs and systems that are there to provide assistance. Therefore, we are pleased that at the recent World Humanitarian Summit, The Netherlands has shown its support for the Charter on Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action.

As a country, we are never afraid to take bold and innovative steps and to lead the way forward. We build dykes when the water rises too high and help other countries to manage their water systems. We take a strong stance in support of sexual diversity and sexual and reproductive health rights. We recognize women and their leadership as essential for sustainable peace and development. And we dare to take risks and to focus on cooperation and development even in situations of conflict and humanitarian crisis.

DCDD believes we need to be equally bold when it comes to supporting the inclusion of the 1 billion persons with disabilities around the world. We can empower them, as well as the societies around them, to truly embrace human diversity in all its forms. We know that persons with disabilities have the ability to win. They just need to be given the opportunity to play.

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