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Disability and the UN: The time has come, says European Disability Forum

[Brussels, 14 September 2011] In January 2011, the EU ratified its first international convention, the UN Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see EWL news of 06 January 2011). Since then, the EWL has supported the work of its member organisation, the European Disability Forum, in calling for the rapid ratification and implementation of this Convention by all the EU member states. Thus far, 18 countries have ratified, but Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland have yet to do so. Below, you will find an editorial by Javier Güemes, Acting Director of the European Disability Forum on the work of the Forum at the UN.

Editorial: Disability and the UN: The time has come

This is certainly one of the most critical moments of the year for the disability movement. The organisations of persons with disabilities from all over the world are gathering at the UN for the Conference of States Parties (just say COSP) during first week of September. The UN Convention stipulates that the States Parties meet regularly and hence, since 2008, 4 sessions of the COSP have been held at UN headquarters in New York. The organisations of persons with disabilities are invited to attend the conference and to set up side events giving the necessary room for everyone to express issues of importance.

The symbiotic courtship between NGOs and Governments is well known, yet I would like to highlight the progressive consolidation of the disability movement on a global scale. Established in 1999, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) is the network of global and regional organisations of persons with disabilities. The objective is to promote the implementation of the UN Convention.

It was both necessary and ambitious to start working together. Necessary because we have to have one strong voice when we address the United Nations and States Parties. ‘Ambitious’ because the diversity of disability calls for so many different priorities. Finally, we all have the same perspective: we want to improve the lives of persons with disabilities - regardless of the nationality and the disability. IDA represents this need of persons with disabilities to have a say in international affairs. Global actors decide about national and local policies. Persons with disabilities should act globally as well to ensure that locally their rights are respected. This is also the only solution to make sure ’disability’ and the UN Convention stay on top of the political agenda, not only for 1 week a year, and not only on the premises of the UN. More than a hundred countries have now ratified the Convention, 18 of them in the EU: we need to ignite the fire of ambition.

Over the past decade, we have grown, organised ourselves, debated and agreed. It is now crucial to strengthen this remarkable international movement. The European Disability Forum is not just fully committed to the political aims of IDA but also to its consolidation through the unique administrative support that we provide to its activities.

The crucial moment of implementation has come. The European disability movement fought to make sure the UN Convention was concluded.

We now have to make sure the EU will deliver.

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