Heikki Holmås attended the high-level meeting together with Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion Inga Marte Thorkildsen and Lars Ødegård from the Atlas Alliance. Ødegård was the first Member of Parliament in Norway using a wheelchair and when he first came to the Parliament the restroom was not accessible to him. “Now it’s fixed”, Holmås said. In his statement he emphasized the importance of including the disabled in the labor marked and improving their access to education and health and in doing so persons with disabilities must be included in the post 2015 agenda. Disability remains largely invisible in most mainstream development processes, including the MDGs. Greater efforts are needed to ensure that development processes include persons with disabilities to help realize the overall objective of the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society.The exclusion of the disabled people from the labor market is a human rights challenge. And as Holmås said, “we will never be able to reach our development targets without the adoption of clear goals for the full inclusion of vulnerable and excluded groups, not least persons with disabilities”.
Holmås also talked about what Norway has been doing on the issue of disability. He specifically highlighted the Norwegian ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) this June. Now, Norway is obliged to eliminate discrimination and build an inclusive society at home and abroad. The convention was adopted by the UN in 2006, but there are still many countries that have not ratified it. Holmås encouraged all member states to support the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Multi-Donor Trust Fund (UNPRPD MDTF). The UNPRPD coordinates the efforts of various UN bodies to assist countries in implementing the convention.
Some progress has been made in improving the situation of persons with disabilities since the UN Convention in 2006 and since Ødegård first entered the Parliament. But there is still important work that needs to be done. Holmås concluded is statement with a call for collaboration; “If we do it together we can provide equal opportunities for all”.
Watch photos from the meeting here.