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25 May, 2012

UN Declares 2013-2022 as “Asia-Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities”

travel impact newswire exclusive

BANGKOK – In what could prove to be a golden opportunity for the global travel & tourism industry to enhance its contribution to society, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) has officially declared 2013-2022 as the “Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities” and invited all stakeholders to help make it a success.

Sponsored by Korea, the resolution was adopted unanimously at UNESCAP’s 68th ministerial session held in Bangkok between 17-23 May 2012. The decade is designed to “promote, protect and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities”. Many of its activities are to be funded by Korea, starting with a set of four back-to-back conferences on disability to be held in Incheon between 24 October – 2 November 2012.

According to ESCAP, the Asia-Pacific is home to around 650 million persons with disabilities, by far a much larger number than any other region of the world.  Many of them live in poverty and suffer discrimination, exclusion, inequality and prejudice. The percentage of children with disabilities having access to primary education is as low as 4 per cent in some countries. Average unemployment rates of persons with disabilities are at least double those of general populations.

An ESCAP report says: “Disability associated with population ageing creates an even greater need for barrier-free and enabling environments in Asia and the Pacific. Catering to the needs of persons with disabilities can contribute to the creation of more inclusive, productive and sustainable societies in the region. Moreover, new economic opportunities can be generated through the expansion of markets that are responsive to the specific needs of persons with disabilities.”

A Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the UN on 13 December 2006 and entered into force on 3 May 2008. The CRPD promotes a paradigm shift from a charity-based to a rights-based approach to disability and disability-inclusive development. Since then, the region has been witnessing concerted efforts by governments and civil society towards the ratification and implementation of the CRPD.

According to ESCAP, “There has been much improvement in the political, social and economic environment that has been conducive to the enhancement of the rights of persons with disabilities, and that technological advances, including information and communications technologies, have become instrumental in promoting, protecting and ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities.”

The ESCAP resolution “invites all members and associate members of the Commission, international development assistance agencies and the private sector to ensure the successful implementation of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022.”

As Travel Impact Newswire has become the first travel media in the world to respond to that invitation and report on this significant development, the resolution provides a tremendous opportunity for the entire travel & tourism industry to follow suit and partner with the UN system in facilitating everything from barrier-free travel for PwDs to providing them with gainful employment.

Indeed, there is no shortage of efforts that can be made by airports, convention centres, hotels, theme parks, the entire transportation system and all places of interest in the travel & tourism chain to ensure accessibility and create jobs. The industry could also organise a number of follow-up conferences and events to further brainstorm ways to support PwDs.

In 1993, the Asia-Pacific became the first region to implement two consecutive decades devoted to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The two decades, 1993-2002 and 2003-2012, focused on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and in all mainstream development programmes, successfully contributing to a shift from a charity-based to a rights-based approach in related policy development and implementation.

Now, the aim of this new decade is to fully mainstream disability into development and to address both the remaining and emerging challenges faced in realizing the rights enshrined in the CRPD.

To support the implementation of a new decade, 2013-2022, Korea has proposed the establishment of a multi-donor trust fund, to be called the Make the Right Real Fund that will be based in Korea and founded on a public-private partnership.

A “High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Final Review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 2003-2012” will be held in Incheon from 29 October to 2 November 2012.  The meeting is expected to adopt an outcome document, which will serve as the regional action framework to guide the implementation of the new decade.

The framework will include measurable, achievable, and time bound goals, targets and indicators on poverty reduction, political participation, enhancement of access to social services, social protection, children with disabilities, gender equality, disaster preparedness and management, disability data, the CRPD and cooperation.

The Intergovernmental meeting will be one of the four conferences to be held in Incheon, with a  total projected attendance of 3,000 people from 100 countries. They will be hosted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and Incheon Metropolitan City. Key organising groups include the Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute (KODDI), Korean Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (KSRPD), Asia Pacific Disability Forum (APDF) and Disabled People’s International Korea (DPI Korea).

Further details of all the conferences can be found by clicking here.

At the ESCAP 68th commission session in Bangkok, several country delegations reported on newly introduced policies and programmes to enhance rights-based disability-inclusive development in the region, including the introduction of anti-discrimination laws, official recognition and promotion of sign language, the expansion of education for persons with hearing impairment as well as efforts to provide cash transfers to persons with disabilities living in poverty and comprehensive medical and rehabilitation services.

The Russian Federation also announced that the Government would soon be ratifying the CRPD. The ESCAP secretariat has undertaken a regional “Make the Right Real” campaign to accelerate the ratification of the CPRD, including the national launches of the campaign in Bangladesh, India and the Philippines.

Other groups such as the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT) are also helping to enhance information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility for persons with disabilities.