European Parliamentarians and the European Disability Forum join with CBM to call for strong European action to implement UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities worldwide
MEP Gay Mitchell opens ‘Access for All?’ at the European Parliament in Brussels. Exhibition highlights need to renew commitment to MDGs for people with disabilities in the developing world.
Brussels, 3 December 2008
The European Parliament recently hosted an important photo exhibition to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The exhibition, developed by CBM and entitled ‘Access for all’, will run throughout this week marking the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The 2008 theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Dignity and justice for all of us". The photos exhibited illustrate CBM's work in fostering political empowerment and access to health, education, livelihood support and social inclusion in some of the most disadvantaged communities in low income countries.
Much can be achieved when Persons with Disabilities are able to access to development activities; however, such people are a drop in the ocean of the 650 million Persons with Disabilities worldwide. At present only 4 percent of people with disabilities in the developing world access development aid; speakers at the exhibition called for increased commitment and action to equalise opportunities for Persons with Disabilities around the world. Donor countries in particular need to honour their role in ensuring that all development and humanitarian assistance is delivered to people with disabilities on an equal footing with others. Speakers at the opening of 'Access for All' reminded us of the hard work that lies ahead to make sure that the promises made by governments in signing this Convention will be translated into real improvements in the lives of Persons with Disabilities worldwide.
'….billions of Euro can be found for bankers at the drop of a hat…'
Hosting the exhibition was Gay Mitchell, Irish MEP who is used to campaigning for increased focus on development aid and poverty reduction at the European level. He described his pursuit of a strong development cooperation programme for the EU, and pointed out that in these days when 'billions of Euro can be found for bankers at the drop of a hat', he has had to struggle for one billion Euro to come to the aid of farmers in developing countries whose families lives and livelihoods hang in the balance due to the food crisis. Mitchell went on to say that there was 'a need to keep renewing our commitment to poverty reduction and the MDGs', and that 'nowhere is the need felt more strongly than by people with disabilities in the developing world'.
Speakers at the opening of the exhibition addressed the question:
What can the European Union do about the exclusion of persons with disabilities from development cooperation? John Bowis MEP, campaigner for the inclusion of disability across all areas of EC policy, drew inspiration from the photo exhibition, saying: 'We are not asking for people to feel sorry for people with disabilities; we see pride and dignity in the faces of people in the exhibition here today, and it is this pride and dignity that we need to respond to. Disability is not inability- inability is cased by the barriers we as a society put in place'.
Bowis was struck also by the photos which highlighted the way disability impacts families, and in particular its effect on children in developing countries. He reflected on how 'a child's right to play, to be naughty, to mix with other children, to have a career themselves eventually', was all taken away when they either had a disability themselves, or were needed at home to care for a family member because of poverty and inadequate support.
'The real difference worldwide caused by the UN CRPD will be in the developi