Launch of the EU-Arab Cooperation Forum on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - ESCWA
24 January 2022
15:30–16:30

Beirut time

Special event

Launch of the EU-Arab Cooperation Forum on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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  • Online
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This virtual event marks the signature of a Letter of Understanding between ESCWA, the Ministry of Inclusion and Social Wellbeing in the Republic of Malta and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to collaborate and give effect to the “EU-Arab Cooperation Forum on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. The Forum was established under the Valletta Political Declaration on EU-Arab Cooperation in Affirming Disability Rights that was signed in Valletta, Malta on 25 April 2019.

The Forum fosters inter-regional cooperation to improve social inclusion of persons with disabilities in the countries of the European Union and the Arab region. It supports collaborative efforts for capacity building, knowledge exchange, technical cooperation, and research. The work of the Forum is aligned with the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS), which provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all the work pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights, and development.

The “Arab-EU Research Network on Disability” will be the forum’s first initiative. It aims at fostering inter-regional cooperation and knowledge exchange, supporting research, capacity building and curriculum development as a driver for change and improving social inclusion of persons with disabilities.

The event is conducted in English. Interpretation to Arabic and Arabic sign language is provided.

Outcome document

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) of the Republic of Malta and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today announced the signature of a Letter of Understanding with respect to  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.

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. 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 scheduled for the second half of 2022.

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.

“It is definitely an honour to see the launch of this Research Network on Disability today. In April 2019, Malta once again proved itself to be a champion for dialogue between Europe and the Arab world, by bringing together key stakeholders to discuss and agree to work together on a shared goal—the rights of persons with disabilities,” Maltese Minister of Inclusion, Social Wellbeing and Voluntary Organizations Julia Farrugia Portelli said “Through this research network, we are putting in place a practical initiative, to ensure that the best and brightest minds in the region can work together, and come up with durable solutions that will benefit the lives of persons with disabilities and their families,” she added.

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.

Ms. Sylvanna Lakkis stressed the importance of including persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all development efforts. This helps ensure their economic and social inclusion and ensure their rights especially political rights like voting in elections.

Dr. Claire Azzopardi Lane affirmed the importance of research as a driver for change and a catalyst for disability inclusion, and the important role universities in both Europe and the Arab region can play in achieving this.

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