Representatives of the European Disability Forum were active in the General Debate and roundtables during the Conference of State Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We also spoke at a series of side events on topics ranging from social platforms to disability inclusive climate justice.
Below, you can find a summary of our participation at the conference.
Yannis Vardakastanis, our President, recorded a video statement that was shown during the General Debate. In it, he spoke about the disastrous consequences of the pandemic. He added that the pandemic shows the dangers of living in residential institutions, where persons with disabilities have been abused and humiliated. He stated that people with disabilities living in the community also suffered loss of support networks and loss of access to work and education. He called on the State Parties to ensure a recovery for everyone.
Watch the statement.
Watch an extended version of the statement.
Roundtable “Living Independently, being included in the community”
Pirkko Mahlamäki, Secretary-General of Finnish Disability Forum and our Executive committee member spoke on our behalf on the second roundtable of the Conference “Living independently, being included in the community”. The roundtable also counted with Haidi Zang, Chairperson of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and President of Rehabilitation International; Xavier Torres, Government Counsellor in the field of disability and the elderly and President of the National Council for Disability Equality; Alarcos Cieza, Coordinator of the Disability Team at WHO and Alberto Vasquez, president of Sociedad y Discapacidad.
Pirkko Mahlamäki started by stating that people with disabilities in Europe continue to be excluded from society due to multiple barriers such as lack of accessible accommodation, lack of support services, limited disability allowance and a culture of institutionalization. She especially added the case of children with disabilities that are more likely to be placed and stay in institutions for the majority of their lives.
She suggested that States should promote the process of de-institutionalization. States should also involve organisations of persons with disabilities in all discussions that impact the rights of persons with disabilities (for example climate change and COVID-19 recovery). She added that this was not the case in Europe when countries developed their COVID-19 recovery plans.
She asserted the importance of not only housing being accessible but also that the surrounding community environment must be accessible to realise independent living; living independently in the community is equally crucial for the realisation of full participation.
Implementing the UNCRPD through Disability Strategies
Yannis Vardakastanis, our President, spoke on our behalf at the side event “Implementing the UNCRPD through Disability Strategies”, which aimed to provide an exchange of views on the development of disability strategies as tools for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He stated that the European Disability Strategy was the result of a strong push by stakeholders. He added that the strategy alone will not bring change: it needs ambition, interinstitutional coordination and resources. He went on to point that despite the intersectional approach to disability, the strategy falls short of including the gender perspective. He concluded with two points: first that tangible change for persons with disabilities is more needed than ever, as the pandemic has been a heavy pushback to the human rights of persons with disabilities. The second point was that all funding initiatives that are put in place in European Union should not leave persons with disabilities behind.
Beyond Bridging the Gap: from inclusive policies to community inclusion
Ana Peláez Narváes, our Vice-President, spoke on our behalf during the side event “Beyond Bridging the Gap: from inclusive policies to community inclusion”. This side event was a dialogue on the contribution of Bridging the Gap and its consortium to the translation of inclusive policies to “real-life impacts” aiming at supporting the independent living of persons with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries. During her speech, Ana thanked the organisations of persons with disabilities in Sudan, Paraguay, Ethiopia and Ecuador for their involvement. She also called on the European Commission and EU Member States to create a new program of international cooperation with a special focus on women and girls with disabilities.
Disability-Inclusive Climate Action: Why and How?
A video produced by us and CBM Global was shown during this side event. This event aimed to provide an overview of the steps taken so far and future plans in enhancing inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in climate adaptation and climate mitigation policies and processes. The video calls on governments and stakeholders to involve persons with disabilities in climate change policies. Watch the short version of the video. Read the article on our website.
Buying Social Support Through Online Platforms: What Way Forward?
Matthieu Chatelin, member of our youth Committee, spoke on our behalf at the side event «Buying Social Support Through Online Platforms: What Way Forward?”. The event was about how online platforms can provide a solution for persons with disabilities to find support workers. Matthieu asserted that, first and foremost, most support to persons with disabilities does not have online alternatives and should be provided in person. However, there is potential in online platforms that put persons with disabilities in contact with providers. He mentioned especially that there is the potential in a platform that can match support workers with special skill sets or interests with persons with disabilities that need them. These can include support workers that assist persons with disabilities with work or with their hobbies. He affirmed that online platforms can also be of assistance when it comes to the logistical organisation of one’s support network. They can also be used to bring persons with disabilities together, for peer support or mentoring.