Turning vision into action

Turning vision into action

EDF co-hosted the 71st WHO’s side event on the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities

“We can live in a world that we design” – sang the Shalva Band at the opening of the 71st WHO Regional Committee for Europe’s side event on the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities which was held on 17th September. The event was co-hosted by the WHO regional office for Europe, European Disability Forum, Germany, Israel, Norway, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

But what kind of world we would like to design together? That was the topic of this discussion where our President, Yannis Vardakastanis also had a speech among other high-level representatives.
The objectives of the side event were to raise awareness of resolution WHA74.8 on the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities; to identify regional opportunities to highlight the importance of and advance commitments to disability inclusion in the health sector, and to define priorities and next steps for the implementation of this resolution in the European Region.

The event was a fully accessible event which was the first for WHO Regional Committee Meetings. Mr. Nitzan Horowitz, Israel’s Minister of Health, Mr. Dag Inge Ulstein, Norway’s Minister of International Development, and Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe gave the opening remarks. Mr. Horowitz emphasized that persons with disabilities must sit at the decision makers’ table and be partners in shaping decisions concerning their lives. Dr. Kluge explained the necessity of turning vision into action with our health systems accessible for persons with disabilities. According to Dr. Kluge, the key to this is to be open-minded and to keep in mind that health is not only the absence of disease but also linked to psychological and social well-being.

During the event, both of our videos on inclusive and accessible public health messages about COVID-19 were played which we prepared in collaboration with WHO EURO. Our President talked about our commitment to collaborating closely with the WHO office for Europe and our appreciation of the cooperation we have had so far during the COVID 19 health crisis. He mentioned that this pandemic was a wake-up call for the disability community to work on and advocate for more inclusive health services. The involvement of marginalized groups is extremely important and EDF is paying specific attention to those who are at a greater risk of exclusion as a result of the intersection between gender, sexual orientation, age, racial and ethnic background, and other grounds of discrimination. He welcomed the willingness for collaboration in implementing the Resolution and all related processes, policies, funding in the most inclusive way possible.

screenshot from the online event showing the speakers and interpreters

Ms. Shirly Pinto, the first Israeli Member of Parliament that uses Sign Language, Mr. Jürgen Dusel from the German Federal Government Commissioner for Matters Relating to Persons with Disabilities, Mr. David Nuttall, Deputy Director for Neurodiversity, Disability and Learning Disability, and Dr. Dorit Nitzan, the Regional Emergency Director, WHO Europe also shared their views during the event. The moderators were Mr. Robb Butler, the Executive Director WHO Europe, and Ms. Odelia Fitoussi Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

They all agreed that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are being heard, and they are consulted and engaged in all phases. By following a human right based and inclusive approach, we can make sure that persons with disabilities can play more significant roles in their communities and ensure that no one is left behind.

Recording of the event

The article was written by Diana Zsoldos, Communications and Logistics Officer for International Cooperation.

For more information, contact Marion Steff, International Cooperation Manager at marion.steff@edf-feph.org