Persons with disabilities are not a homogenous group. They often face multiple layers of marginalization based on socioeconomic status, gender, the urban-rural divide, migration, ethnicity and many other identity markers. Persons with disabilities are also disproportionally affected by crises and disasters, exacerbated by ongoing conflicts in the Arab region. In addition to physical barriers to accessibility, social and legal barriers remain for the inclusion of people with disabilities in political and public life. As inequality deepens in the region and the world, an integrated approach is needed to address these complex and interacting factors.
Arab countries are increasingly committed to the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, not only as part of the 2030 Agenda, but also as signatories to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, one of the biggest challenges to ensuring their inclusion is a lack of disaggregated data related to persons with disabilities, resulting in a large gap for policymakers. Nonetheless, existing data show that they are less likely to have access to education and employment, and therefore more likely to be poor. Women and girls with disabilities in particular face greater vulnerabilities.
ESCWA endeavours to include persons with disabilities in all areas of social life, on an equal basis with others, so as to realize the full potential and capacity of the Arab region and its peoples.
ESCWA has established a regional database with harmonized data on disability, according to Washington Group definitions. It also publishes regional and national research on select topics, such as status reports on social protection for persons with disabilities.
ESCWA regularly convenes the Inter-sessional Group of Experts on Disability Policy (IGED) that was established in 2016. The Group serves as a regional platform for policy dialogue, coordination, knowledge exchange, and south-south cooperation on issues related to ensuring social inclusion and the rights of persons with disabilities. IGED comprises high-level policymakers working on disability and social inclusion, including from ministries of social affairs, and national councils for persons with disabilities.
By convening regular meetings, delivering workshops and trainings, developing knowledge products and providing technical advice through IGED, ESCWA raises the awareness and strengthens the capacity of policymakers in Arab countries to efficiently design, implement and monitor social inclusion policies for persons with disabilities, thus facilitating regional and subregional cooperation and mutual learning, and contributing to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Arab countries.
ESCWA also supports Arab Governments by providing technical advice and training sessions on various disability-related issues, such as including persons with disabilities in the labour market, accessing electronic media, and formulating national disability policies.