New initiative to strengthen Arab-EU cooperation on disability rights

Beirut, 24 January 2022–Although 21 out of 22 Arab countries have signed or ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, their chances of being employed are only half of those of the remaining Arab population of working age. To push for greater economic and social inclusion of persons with disabilities, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), in cooperation with the Ministry for Inclusion, Social Wellbeing and Voluntary Organizations (MIWV) in the Republic of Malta and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today launched the “EU-Arab Cooperation Forum on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

The Forum will foster collaborative efforts in the European Union and the Arab region for policy exchange, technical cooperation, capacity-building and research in order to further uphold the rights of persons with disabilities.

During the virtual launch and signature ceremony, ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti underlined the commitment of ESCWA to including persons with disabilities in all development efforts and to rolling out the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS). “The Strategy is the cornerstone for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion in all pillars of UN work: peace and security, human rights, and development,” she added.

The “Arab-EU Research Network on Disability” will be the first initiative of the Forum; it will support research, training and curriculum development as a driver for change.

“It is an honour to be part of the launch of this Forum and Research Network today. Malta once again proved to be a champion for dialogue between Europe and the Arab region, by bringing together key stakeholders to work together for a shared goal-the rights of persons with disabilities,” Maltese Minister of Social Inclusion and Wellbeing and Voluntary Organizations Julia Farrugia Portelli said. “This Research Network is a practical initiative to ensure that the best and brightest minds in the two regions work together to find sustainable solutions that will benefit the lives of persons with disabilities and their families,” she added.

For his part, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Gerard Quinn highlighted the role of the Forum in influencing policy in Europe, the Arab region and beyond, also stressing the need for research to inform and drive change in response to global challenges.

The newly established Arab-EU Research Network will issue a call for papers on the right to “Independent Living within the Community”, stipulated under article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Selected papers will be presented in an upcoming symposium.

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