During the last decade, the international development regarding the rights of persons with disabilities has undergone substantial changes. With the UN Convention, these rights have been given a solid international basis and framework. The Convention marks a “paradigm shift” in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection - towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, subjects who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
Norway has a reputation for being a supporter of the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, and was a pioneer in establishing a framework for such support within the development cooperation.
It is first and foremost the responsibility of each country to fulfill the requirements in the CRPD. But international cooperation is an important tool in that respect. To develop disability-inclusive policies and programs is a challenge to us all. Norway has had a policy on disability inclusive development cooperation for several years and Norwegian support to promote the rights of persons with disabilities has been on a relatively high and stable level during the last decade. A considerable amount of the international support to persons with disabilities is channeled through the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation to civil society organizations. Among these, the support to the umbrella organization the Atlas-alliance is of particular importance.
Norway has also initiated a joint approach towards field offices and embassies for coordinated efforts between bilateral agencies and UNDP for country level engagement.
This year Norway has hosted two international conferences on disability. The first conference focused on the obstacles and solutions on mainstreaming disability in development cooperation, and the other on how to reach persons with disabilities in Conflicts and Emergencies. The aim of this conference was to highlight how states and international organizations should address the inclusion of disabled people in the practical relief work.These two conferences complemented each other, and opened a window of opportunity to rebuild an inclusive society.
The two conferences identified many challenges and solutions relevant to the topics of this State Party session.
Firstly, negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities, and lack of awareness is found not only in public, but is palpable also in administrations and institutions, probably in all countries represented here today. Continued efforts are required to run awareness and knowledge programs on the situation for persons with disabilities. There are already many good awareness programs, how do we share them and use them?
Secondly, the importance of participation of Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) as a prerequisite for disability inclusive development. DPOs should be able to participate and have influence on developing policies and programs to secure that disability is mainstreamed. To be effective, such participation must take place in both recipient and donor countries.
Further, the Foreign Minister of Norway has called for empowerment of DPOs, emphasizing the need for civil society participation at future negotiation tables. Inclusion of people with disabilities in planning should not be left to organisations of persons with disabilities alone, but is a responsibility for both organizations and governments.
Norway encourages member states to bring up human rights issues in the hearings in the universal periodic reviews of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Throughout the world there are many valuable initiatives to support mainstreaming of disability in development. It is a challenge to work together in such a way that we do not have to reinvent the wheel again and again. To set up a collection of “best practice” and publish it in an accessible way is a great challenge. We welcome DESAS’ efforts in this regard, and look forward to following the process from the sideline!