On 3rd December 2015, the European Union (EU) celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in the framework of the European Year for Development. The aim of the one-day conference was to answer the question, if the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to be fully inclusive of persons with disabilities then what practical steps do we need to take now?

The conference, which took place in Brussels, was attended by almost one hundred participants representing the EU Institutions, EU Member States, organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs), and other civil society organisations and networks from Europe and developing countries.

So, what does it take to leave no one behind? Ten practical action points for the EU to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the framework of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) were presented during the closing address. One key recommendation, which should be undertaken from now, is the development of a work plan in consultation with development partners including DPOs and other civil society organisations.

This work plan should include: measures to create awareness of the CRPD, advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in the world, and politically supporting the inclusion of disability in Agenda 2030, in particular the adoption of disability-related indicators.

The EU should build its own organisational capacity, ensuring that there is a behavioral shift towards a rights-based approach, sharing of best practice and knowledge, reinforcing its own human resource capacity, including ensuring disability focal points, and using its programmatic tools and budget to promote the CRPD.

The call to carefully review, apply and monitor the EU’s own obligations concerning accessibility was reinforced by the adoption of a proposal for a European Accessibility Act by the European Commission (EC) on December 2nd. All projects funded by the EU must be fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

Working in partnerships and ensuring the participation and empowerment of persons with disabilities in all aspects of Agenda 2030 is crucial.

European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, opened the conference with a video message in which he presented the EU position during the negotiations leading to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. The EU has been supportive of the inclusion of persons with disabilities and in ensuring the adoption the motto of the Sustainable Development Goals, “Leave No One Behind” but, as  Commissioner Mimica points out, the challenge now is to go beyond the good intentions and enable the actual delivery. The EC played a very active role in the discussions throughout the day. Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General of Directorate General of Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO), proposed to create a list of ten feasible actions to guide the EC in addressing the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee. Lotte Knudsen, Director of DG DEVCO B, spoke of the need for a paradigm and behaviour shift to achieve disability inclusive development. Inmaculada Placencia, Deputy Head of Unit in DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, gave an overview of the EU involvement in the review of the EU’s implementation of the CRPD, and the actions the Commission is already undertaking to implement the recommendations. Many speakers referred to important lessons which can be learned from gender mainstreaming in development.  

Diane Kingston, from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and CBM, highlighted that the Committee had recommended the EU to take a lead role in implementation of a disability inclusive Agenda 2030.  

The role of Parliament in the EU and the Global South was discussed. Richard Howitt, Co-Chair of the Disability Intergroup, Member of both the Foreign Affairs and the Human Rights Committees of the European Parliament – and a long standing advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities – called for more consolidated action in light of the UN Convention.  Helen Grace Asamo, Member of the Ugandan Parliament, made a powerful call for the EU to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are central to their agreements with partner countries. She highlighted the role of her Parliament in advocating for every government programme and budget to be fully inclusive.

Representatives of DPOs from the Global South made some critical recommendations to the EU. Idriss Alzouma Maiga, Vice-Chair of the recently established Africa Disability Forum (ADF) called on EU officials to use all their political weight and diplomatic power to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. This matter arose throughout the day given the important role the EU plays in political dialogue with partner countries and regional organisations.

María Jesús Varela Méndez, General Director of Once Foundation for Latin America emphasised the need for the EU to use the opportunity of negotiating agreements with partner countries to stipulate the obligation to include persons with disabilities and make all development actions accessible.

Background and practical information:

In 2015, both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction were adopted. The review of the EU implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also took place this year. The EU is the largest donor of official development assistance (ODA) and is the first regional body to sign and ratify the CRPD.

The conference “Leave no one behind: Tackling inequalities of persons with disabilities in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was organised by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Disability Forum (EDF), the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), CONCORD,  CBM, Disabled People’s Organisations Denmark (DPOD), Handicap International and Light for the World. It gathered representatives from different EU institutions as well as from organisations of persons with disabilities in developing countries.


Commissioner Mimica’s opening address

Programme for the 3rd December Conference

Source Article from IDDC

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