Disability

Challenges and Opportunities

One in every six persons in Asia and the Pacific has some form of disability: 650 million men, women and children.

The number is expected to rise over the next decades due to population ageing, natural disasters, chronic health conditions, road traffic injuries, poor working conditions and other factors. Despite the constant increase in their number, persons with disabilities tend to be unseen, unheard and uncounted. They are often excluded from access to education, employment, social protection services and legal support systems, and are subject to disproportionately high rates of poverty. They continue to face both barriers in their participation as equal members of society and violations of their human rights.

National development policies in many countries of the region have largely ignored or not adequately addressed the concerns of persons with disabilities. By the end of 2012, the Asia-Pacific region recorded the lowest levels of signature and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the world, with 36 Signatories and 27 States Parties that accounted respectively for 72 and 54 per cent of the ESCAP member States which are eligible to ratify it. Many Governments that have ratified the CRPD still need to strengthen efforts to harmonize domestic laws and policies to put them in line with the values and principles of the CRPD. Furthermore, as in other parts of the world, Asia and the Pacific faces another fundamental challenge: lack of reliable and comparable data on disability, an obstacle to Governments strengthening the evidence base to design, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of disability policies and programmes.

Since the adoption of the CRPD, there has been an increased understanding that national development strategies as well as international development goals and programmes should be disability inclusive. The High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Disability and Development, convened in New York on 23 September 2013, adopted an Outcome Document on ensuring inclusion of persons with disabilities in the emerging post-2015 United Nations development agenda.

Expanding social and economic participation of persons with disabilities will alleviate some social burdens and create equal opportunities for all. This is particularly true in Asia and the Pacific where the population of persons with disabilities, 650 million, is a market twice as big as that of the Euro Zone. Furthermore, a recent ILO study found that economic losses related to the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour force were large and measurable, ranging from 3 to 7 per cent of GDP in countries covered by the study.

Our Response

Building on the achievements of the past two consecutive Asian and Pacific Decades of Disabled Persons (1993-2002 and 2003-2012), ESCAP is promoting the full realization of the rights of persons with disabilities and disability-inclusive development in the new Decade. Governments of the ESCAP region adopted, at a High-level Intergovernmental Meeting (29 October – 2 November 2012, Incheon, Republic of Korea), the Ministerial Declaration on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022, and the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. The Incheon Strategy is a pioneering regional framework that will guide national and regional action in the new Decade. It is derived from the experiences of the ESCAP region and based on the principles of the CRPD, and comprises 10 specific time-bound disability-inclusive development goals, 27 targets and 62 indicators similar in structure to the Millennium Development Goals.

In the new Decade, ESCAP will focus on strengthening the Asia-Pacific evidence base and continue harnessing region-wide partnerships among governments, organizations of, and for, persons with disabilities, other civil society organizations, development agencies, intergovernmental organizations and the United Nations systems.

Our Work

ESCAP supports national and regional efforts to implement the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. Its work, particularly during the first five years of the current Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022, is guided by the roadmap for the implementation of the Incheon Strategy. The new Decade is also supported by the Working Group on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. In 2012, ESCAP honored Champions and Promoters for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities. These Champions and Promoters constitute a pool of distinguished individuals with skills to provide support services during the Decade.

Roadmap for the implementation of the Incheon Strategy

The ESCAP roadmap for the effective implementation of the Incheon Strategy will outline milestone activities to be implemented in the first five years of the Decade. The draft roadmap has been developed by the ESCAP secretariat in consultation with various stakeholders and members of the Working Group on the Decade. The roadmap will be submitted for endorsement to the Commission, at its seventieth session in 2014.

Working Group on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022

The Working Group on the Decade is mandated to provide technical advice and support to ESCAP members for the full and effective implementation of the Decade. The ESCAP Commission at its sixty-ninth session, convened in 2013, made a final decision on the composition and members of the Working Group. The membership consists of 15 Governments and 15 civil society organizations. The Working Group met for the first time in February 2014 to discuss overall management issues and to review the ESCAP draft roadmap for the implementation of the Incheon Strategy. ESCAP serves as the secretariat of the Working Group.

Highlights of ESCAP’s work on disability are as follows:

Promotion of the Incheon Strategy

The Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific is the heart of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. It is imperative to promote the spirit and content of the Strategy throughout the region. ESCAP has translated the Strategy into Chinese and Russian. An easy-to-understand version of the Strategy will be published in 2014. ESCAP encourages Governments in the region to translate the Strategy into local languages and publish it in accessible formats for persons with diverse disabilities. In May 2013, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia launched the Incheon Strategy. In July, the Malaysian Government launched the Strategy and promoted its implementation.

“Make the Right Real” Campaign

The “Make the Right Real” Campaign aims to accelerate the ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. Launched by ESCAP in 2010, the Campaign is carried out at country levels by the voluntary initiatives of national Governments. The Campaign contributes to raising awareness of the CRPD and the Incheon Strategy among policymakers and the disability community at large in Asian and Pacific countries.

Strengthening the evidence base

Promoting reliable and comparable disability data is a focus of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. Therefore, ESCAP supports member States to effectively plan on collecting data for the Incheon Strategy Indicators. To start the process, in April 2013, ESCAP conducted a regional survey to take stock of national baseline disability data for the Incheon Strategy Indicators. ESCAP will publish a technical guidebook on data generation for the Incheon Strategy Indicators and backstop national capacity building.

ESCAP-Sasakawa Award for Disability-inclusive Business in Asia and the Pacific

This Award was developed to publicly recognize and reward businesses that demonstrate good practices in responding to the needs of persons with disabilities in their business operations; raise awareness regarding the opportunities available to the private sector for inclusion of persons with disabilities in business; and catalyse Asia-Pacific leadership in disability-inclusive business. The first Award was conferred on 3 December 2013 in conjunction with the commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Champions and Promoters for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022

In recognition of their outstanding achievements in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities during the past Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 2003-2012, ESCAP and the Government of the Republic of Korea honoured ten Asia-Pacific Champions of Disability Rights and seven Promoters for the new Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. This took place at the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Final Review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 2002-2012 (29 October – 2 November 2012, Incheon, Republic of Korea). The Champions and Promoters are expected to be the vanguard for raising awareness and catalysing the implementation of the Incheon Strategy to Make the Right Real for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific during the new Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022.

Enhancing access for persons with disabilities

Accessibility of the physical environment, public transport, knowledge, information and communication is a precondition for persons with disabilities to fulfil their rights in an inclusive society. By implementing a project on this issue, ESCAP is supporting member States to develop action plans through field visits and teamwork of concerned national stakeholders.

Ensuring disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction and management

Asia and the Pacific is the region most adversely affected by disasters, and persons with disabilities are at higher risk of death, injury and additional impairments as a result of exclusion from disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes. ESCAP works for disability mainstreaming in the post-Hyogo Framework for Action and promotes good practices of disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction in Asia and the Pacific.