690 million men, women and children in Asia and the Pacific have some form of disability. 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. Research shows that in some countries, if persons with disabilities were paid on an equal basis with their peers without disabilities, the GDP of these countries could increase by one to seven per cent. However, 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.
Yet another fundamental issue is that, as in other parts of the world, Asia and the Pacific suffers from the dearth 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.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adopted in 2006, and came into effect in 2008, supports the realization of rights of persons with disabilities. The CRPD indicates that disability is a dynamic concept borne out of the interaction between one’s impairments and external barriers, thus calling for the creation of more enabling environments.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, is a milestone development agenda promoting disability-inclusive development. Notably, the SDGs make explicit references to persons with disabilities in five of its 17 SDGs, and all the SDGs indicators are expected to be disaggregated by the status of disability as well.
These global frameworks play a key role in shaping ESCAP’s response to promoting the rights and addressing the needs of persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific.
ESCAP is the only Regional Commission promoting disability-rights and disability-inclusive development guided by three consecutive regional disability-specific decade initiatives since 1993. The current Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, spanning a period between 2013 and 2022, emphasizes strengthening evidence for policy discussion, development and implementation. Thus, Governments of the ESCAP region adopted, during the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Final Review of the Implementation of the Asia and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 2003-2012, 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 (Incheon Strategy) as its guiding document on disability issues.
The Incheon Strategy builds on principles and contents of the CRPD, comprising 10 specific time-bound development goals, 27 targets and 62 indicators. The Strategy also further promotes the realization of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. In addition to the fact that SDGs’ five goals make specific references to disability, other goals are inextricably linked to the all of the 10 Incheon Strategy Goals.
The 2030 Agenda’s promise to “leave no one behind” will only be kept if concerns and perspectives of persons with disabilities are duly integrated into the formulation and implementation of national development policies.
ESCAP has been supporting national and regional efforts to implement the Incheon Strategy through providing analytical work, enhancing knowledge and skills of member States, and conducting advocacy.
Details of the secretariat’s work can also be accessed at the Make the Right Real website: http://www.maketherightreal.net/
Highlights of ESCAP’s work on disability are as follows:
1. Midpoint review of the Decade
The year 2017 marked the midpoint of the current Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. The midpoint review provided an opportunity to take stock of the achievements, challenges and lessons learnt over the first five years of the Decade, and to reflect on the way forward for the next five years towards the full and effective implementation of the Incheon Strategy.
Against this background, ESCAP organized a region-wide baseline survey to gather valuable information from Governments, civil society organizations and international organizations and development agencies on their efforts to promote disability-inclusive development in the region. The analysis of the review was presented at the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Midpoint Review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, held from 27 November to 1 December 2017 in Beijing.
2. Working Group on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022
The Working Group on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022 was established in early 2013 as an advisory body for the full and effective implementation of the Decade. A roadmap for the implementation of the Incheon Strategy in the first half of the Decade has been developed and adopted by the Working Group and endorsed by the Commission at its 70th session (Bangkok, 4-8 August 2014). The Working Group constitutes 30 members: 15 from governments and 15 from civil society organizations. Its main responsibility is to provide technical advice and support to ESCAP members and associate members, to promote the full and effective implementation of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. The Working Group met for the first time in February 2014 to discuss overall management issues and adopt the roadmap for the implementation of the Incheon Strategy. ESCAP serves as the secretariat of the Working Group.
3. Promotion of the Incheon Strategy
The Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific is the foundation 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, French and Russian. An easy-to-understand version as well as a pocket-size version of the Strategy were 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. As of today, the Strategy is available in ten languages (English as original, Chinese, French, Indonesian, Khmer, Korean, Mongolian, Russian, Thai and Urdu).
4. Strengthening the evidence base
Collecting timely and quality data on persons with disabilities is a focus of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. Therefore, ESCAP has been supporting member States to effectively plan the collection of reliable and comparable disability data with a view to establish a baseline on the Incheon Strategy indicators by 2017. To start the process, ESCAP conducted a regional survey on the availability of national baseline data for the Incheon Strategy indicators and organized an expert group meeting to discuss effective ways of disability data collection in 2013. Consequently, ESCAP published a technical guidebook on data generation for the Incheon Strategy indicators, and launched in 2014 a capacity-building project to support ESCAP governments develop national action plans for data collection on the Incheon Strategy indicators.
To build analytical knowledge on relevant disability-related themes, ESCAP also produces a series of working papers. Thus far, a paper on the costs of exclusion of persons with disabilities has been completed. Working papers on women with disabilities and youth with disabilities will also be made available.
5. Promoting accessibility for all
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, as indicated in Goal 3 of the Incheon Strategy. ESCAP organized two workshops in 2014 and 2015 in China to share technical knowledge on how to implement universal design-based accessibility among policy makers on disability, infrastructure design and ICT. The publication, “Accessibility for All: Good practices of accessibility in Asia and the Pacific to promote disability-inclusive development” provides a summary of good practices gained from the workshops and other sources. ESCAP has also published Disability Inclusive Meetings: An Operational Guide providing meeting organizers with step-by-step, comprehensive advice for the planning of disability-inclusive meetings.
6. Promoting disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction and management
Asia and the Pacific is the most hazard-prone region on earth. Populations at large are exposed to disaster risk, and persons with disabilities are disproportionately exposed to the impacts of disasters. Available evidence indicates that persons with disabilities are between two and four times more likely to be killed during disasters than others.
The Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction includes persons with disabilities as one of key stakeholders in relation to promoting inclusive disaster risk reduction. The Incheon Strategy’s Goal 7 focuses on this theme.
ESCAP is currently developing an e-learning course to enhance knowledge, skills and awareness on disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction for disaster risk reduction managers in the region.
7. The Disability at a Glance series
The Disability at a Glance series, which started in 2006, serves as a companion for policymakers, statisticians and representatives of organizations of, and for, persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. These publications (2012, 2015, 2017) aim to provide a regional overview of disability policies and practices, as well as relevant country data and information on persons with disabilities. Thus far, six publications are available, providing an overview of disability statistics, disability policies, and key employment issues faced by persons with disabilities.