A new ESCAP report shows that the Asia-Pacific region still has a way to go to “Make the right real” for persons with disabilities. The study, “A Three-Decade Journey towards Inclusion: Assessing the State of Disability-Inclusive Development in Asia and the Pacific,” was launched on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which was commemorated together with the Australian Embassy Thailand, NOVA Employment’s Focus on Ability Film Festival, the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disabilities and the World Food Programme.
The report suggests that, in order to ensure inclusion of persons with disabilities, countries need to adopt a whole-of-government and all-of-society approach. Doing so could catalyze a paradigm shift away from “ableism” – discrimination of persons with disabilities - towards diversity and inclusion.
“The publication illustrates that the Asia-Pacific region is far from fulfilling our commitment to “Make the Right Real” for persons with disabilities. We have yet to realize their right to employment, health, education, independent living, protection in disasters or participation in public and political life,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to over 700 million persons with disabilities who continue to face significant barriers to their full and effective societal participation. Persons with disabilities commonly do not enjoy equal access to a range of rights, opportunities and social provisions, such as transport, employment, education, social protection or health care; many of which are taken for granted by able-bodied persons.
Addressing the multi-faceted challenges facing persons with disabilities requires concerted efforts. Since 1993, ESCAP member States have initiated three consecutive Asian and Pacific Decades of Persons with Disabilities in an effort to advance the rights of persons with disabilities and raise public awareness of disability inclusion.
Recently, at the end of the third Decade, ESCAP conducted a final review to assess the status quo of disability-inclusive development in the Asia-Pacific region, reaffirming the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. The Jakarta Declaration on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2023-2032 was adopted at the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Final Review of the Decade in October 2022. Drawing on the valuable inputs from a broad scope of stakeholders, this ground-breaking outcome document sheds light on new regional disability inclusion approaches, underpins key strategic areas of social investment to further disability-inclusive development, and injects new impetus to fulfil the shared commitment of “leaving no one behind”.
“The UN Committee reminded us that there are still many major barriers to disabled people being able to access their human rights on an equal basis to others,” said Poto Williams, Minister of Disability Issues, New Zealand. “This is why declarations like the recent Jakarta Declaration, which seeks to give practical guidance and direction on priorities for implementation, is so helpful.”
“Maldives is pleased with the notable progress made in the promotion and protection of rights of Persons with Disabilities within the past decade. All this highlights the importance of disability inclusion and ensuring the rights of People with Disabilities which we call upon for all countries to adapt,” added Aishath Mohamed Didi, Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, Maldives.
The Commemoration featured a multi-stakeholder discussion on accelerating progress toward the implementation of the Jakarta Declaration as well as a film screening with the winning short films from the Focus on Ability, an annual film festival organised by NOVA Employment. All of the films focused on the theme of abilities or starred by actors and actresses with disabilities, showcasing the potential of films to change people’s perceptions on persons with disabilities.
“The film you saw today helped to shine a light on disability issues on Australia and across the world. They highlight persons with disabilities as rights holders,” said Angela Macdonald, Australian Ambassador to Thailand.