The motto “Nothing about us without us” has been used by Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) globally to advocate for greater participation of persons with disabilities in the decisions, laws, and policies that affect their lives.
Persons with disabilities no longer want to be seen as the recipients of charity but instead as equal members of society that need certainly tailored supports and to have a greater say in what support they may need.
This concept is central to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Convention) and continues to shape the way in which countries which have ratified the Convention, including the Lao PDR in empowering persons with disabilities.
The United Nations Development Programme in the Lao PDR (UNDP) and leading national OPDs are hosting a series of trainings and consultations aimed at strengthening Lao organizations’ understanding of the CRPD Convention, as well as enhance the capacity to participate in the Lao PDR’s review by the United Nations under the CRPD Convention, which is due to take place in August this year.
A total of 13 organizations across 11 provinces have volunteered to be involved in the CRPD Country Review, representing a diversity of disabilities, including persons with hearing impairments and the deaf, blind people and those with visual impairments, people with autism and intellectual disabilities, and those living with physical and mobility impairments.
The group is working to submit a report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the situation of persons with disabilities in the Lao PDR across eight thematic areas, including law and justice; healthcare; education; work and social protection; access to transport, buildings, and information; disaster management; awareness-raising and participation; women and children with disabilities.
One of the group’s members, Mr. Aikeo Koomanivong, is the Director of the Disability Service Centre and is vision impaired, said, “the CRPD Country Review is an important opportunity for persons with disabilities to share their everyday experiences and raise awareness on the discrimination and barriers that continue to exclude many of us.” He added, “We experience life in the Lao PDR differently from each other, and coming together under the Review ensures that we can work together to create better opportunities for persons of all types of disabilities and guarantee that there is nothing about us without us.”
The workshop held by UNDP today is focused on equipping OPDs with the skills and tools to collect and analyze their own disability data. Reliable and timely data can help provide a clear picture of what works well and what still needs to be improved to implement the provisions of the CRPD Convention in the Lao PDR. OPDs, with their diverse lived experience and understanding, are best placed to collect relevant information and identify localized solutions. By assisting the group in disability data collection, this information can then be shared more broadly with the government, the United Nations, development partners and with other persons with disabilities.
Ms. Risnawati Utami, a Member of the United Nations CRPD Committee from Indonesia who joined online training on May 27, said, “We know that persons with disabilities continue to face challenges in equal opportunities and the enjoyment of their rights, but this is often hidden from many of us in society. Disaggregated disability data is one of the important components for protecting and fulfilling the rights of persons with disabilities,” Ms. Utami stressed, “The inability to access reliable data continues to limit the participation of persons with disabilities in decision making. Without it, persons with disabilities can struggle to tell their collective story and advocate for improvements in policy and practice that ensure no person with a disability is left behind.”
Since ratifying the CRPD Convention in 2009, the Lao PDR has made significant efforts in internalizing the Convention’s provisions into the national laws and policies, including the amended 2015 Constitution and Law on Persons with Disabilities, as well as several sectoral laws that enable persons with disabilities protection and opportunity to participate in education and sport, access healthcare, income opportunities, and social security services.
To strengthen these gains and ensure the Laws’ enforcement across the country, UNDP is assisting the NCDE to put into practice the CRPD motto by creating further opportunities for local OPDs to fully participate in the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD Convention in the Lao PDR.
Source: Lao News Agency