14 Feb 2023

Launch of Conference on "Transition towards Independent Living within the Community for People with Disabilities"


Dear Colleagues,


Imagine what would happen if people with disabilities lived independently outside institutions,

Imagine if they were integrated into the community,

and were included, for example, in the labour market.

I am sure you all agree that society as a whole would benefit from their talents and contributions.

This will mean for example, that low and middle-income developing countries in Asia and Africa would benefit up to 7 per cent increase of GDP!  

Unfortunately, the situation is not like that in the Arab region, where unfortunately most people with disabilities face isolation and barriers to work.  

In fact, in nine Arab countries for which data are available, the employment rate for men with disabilities is only 34 per cent, and as low as 14 per cent for women with disabilities.

They face barriers to education as well.

In some Arab countries, only 20 per cent of children with disabilities are enrolled in school, compared to 80 per cent of children without disabilities.

People with disabilities face other obstacles that undermine the implementation of the concept of independent living.

But we have not come here today to dwell on these challenges as we are all aware of them.

We are here to think of solutions and actions to overcome them.

Today, we meet to foster North-South cooperation, which is key to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities, especially under the umbrella of the EU-Arab Cooperation Forum on the Rights of People with Disabilities and its research network.

We also meet to promote a coordinated response: by Governments, regional and international organizations, the civil society, and the private sector,   

And to learn from each other’s success stories, from the European Union and the Arab region.


I hope we will learn more of the policies and good practices implemented in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco and others to ensure accessible education for students with disabilities, empower new graduates and job seekers with disabilities, and create job opportunities for them.

And most importantly, I hope we will listen to the voices of people with disabilities themselves.

Dear participants,

To listen to the voices of people with disabilities, we launched a research competition on independent living and inclusion.

The winning researchers came up with excellent analysis and policy scenarios that they will present to us during the coming days, which will support decision-makers in policy formulation. 


To end,

We, at ESCWA, along with our partners from Malta and the UN Special Rapporteur on disability, are committed to including people with disabilities in all development efforts as our equal partners,

because as long as people with disabilities are left behind, all of society is at a loss,

and whenever they are included,

we are all winners.

Thank you.

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