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19 Oct, 2014

For the first time, China pushes disability issues at Asia-Europe Summit

by Marzia De Giuli

MILAN, Italy, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) — For the first time disability was included in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) agenda, as common work on this issue was at the center of a meeting held in Milan on Saturday on the sidelines of the high-level dialogues among leaders from the two continents.

China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF) together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations hosted the Meeting of Group of Friends on Disability Issues to advocate cooperation among ASEM member countries.

“I think it is a great and timely initiative. I would like to congratulate CDPF for organizing it and promoting such an important agenda in such a high-level forum,” WHO’s Technical Officer Chapal Khasnabis told Xinhua.

According to joint WHO and World Bank figures, there are 1 billion persons with disabilities in the world, accounting for 15 percent of the total population. Of these, an estimated 650 million live in ASEM countries, accounting for 65 percent of the world’s disabled population.

“Another big theme is aging population. It means that in the coming years more than 25 percent of population will be affected by disability, functional decline or aging,” Khasnabis elaborated.

“You cannot leave 25-percent population’s issues out of the mainstream development, social-economic and trade issues discussion,” he stressed.

On the other side, the officer also added, this large population is made of “consumers who need advanced technology,” which also creates a “huge market of opportunities.”

Government representatives, experts and scholars from ASEM countries were engaged in consultation at the Meeting of Group of Friends on Disability. They reached preliminary consensus on the ways to carry out pragmatic cooperation in the field of disability.

It was also decided at the meeting that China and Germany would co-sponsor the first senior-official conference on disability in the framework of ASEM in Beijing next year, CDPF Vice President Jia Yong said.

The conference in Beijing will be attended by senior officials in charge of disability from ASEM member countries and is expected to make more decisive steps about the action plan and roadmap for strengthening exchange and cooperation among Asian and European countries, he said.

The proposal was actively echoed and sponsored by Germany, New Zealand, Thailand, Pakistan and other countries, paving the pay for joint efforts and initiatives from the two continents. End