Joint Letter: The European Disability Strategy and International Cooperation- input from the Global and Regional Umbrella organisations of persons with disabilities

14 November 2019

To: Mr Joost Korte
Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL)

Ms Emmanuelle Grange, Head of Unit
Disability and Social Inclusion (DG EMPL)

Mr Koen Doens, Director-General
International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO)

Mr Christian Danielsson, Director-General
Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)

Ms Monique Pariat, Director-General
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO)

Ms Helga Maria Schmid, Secretary-General
European External Action Service (EEAS)

Brussels, November 13th 2019

Ref. EDF-019-78
RE: Joint letter from regional organisations of persons with disabilities on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in International Cooperation within the European Disability Strategy

Dear Mr Korte,

We would like to thank you for your commitment to the European Disability Strategy and for supporting the inclusion of the rights of persons with disabilities. As you know, the European Union and its Member States are world leaders in international cooperation and development support. In addition, both the EU and all EU Member States have ratified the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), whose article 32 on international cooperation requires that international development programmes are inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities. This commitment to disability inclusion is clearly reflected in the European Consensus on Development adopted in 2017. We believe in partnerships and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities both inside and outside of the EU, as compliant by the CRPD and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This includes strengthening ties with organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) worldwide. Persons with disabilities should be seen as experts and partners, not solely as beneficiaries of international cooperation programmes.

Therefore, we address you today, on behalf of persons with disabilities in the world to call for a reinforced external dimension in the next European Disability Strategy, with the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international cooperation.

The current review of the European Disability Strategy provides an opportunity for the European Union to establish a policy framework for implementation of the CRPD in its external work. This would be coherent with the EU’s obligations under the CRPD and would also provide a basis to the principle of “leave no one behind,” making EU international cooperation inclusive and accessible to all people in society.

For that purpose, we would like to share with you a set of recommendations on the EU Disability Strategy’s external action:

  • Ensure all EU’s external action is in line with the CRPD and 2030 Agenda and SDGs, by promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, including strictly forbidding investing in institutional care settings or inaccessible structures and emphasising community-based, inclusive, and accessible approaches;

  • Ensure all EU-funded actions for international development uphold to the principles of accessibility, dignity and the rights of persons with disabilities to make their own decision, live independently and being included in the community, and that local, national and regional disability organisations are consulted and involved at all stages and on all matters that affect them;

  • Ensure the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) disability inclusion marker is enforced in all EU international cooperation policies and programmes, to monitor finance in support of persons with disabilities;

  • Invest in disaggregated data on disability to advance knowledge on how inclusive EU funds in external action are, using available data collection tools such as the Washington Group set of Questions or the indicators elaborated under Bridging the Gap II;

  • Ensure specific attention in EU-funded actions to the most marginalised groups of persons with disabilities (women and girls, children, indigenous people, persons who are deaf-blind, persons with psychosocial disabilities and persons with intellectual disabilities, among others);

  • Update the 2012 DEVCO Staff guidance note on disability inclusive development cooperation, so it includes information on the implementation of the new disability marker. While DEVCO is implementing the marker, clear and comprehensive information on how to apply it has to be disseminated;

  • Ensure that the EU’s overseas delegations are inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities, including offices and others physical facilities, as well as information and communications accessibility. Technical support should be provided to help delegations applying these principles effectively in their work;

  • Ensure workers in EU delegations in the global south receive training on disability issues, the CRPD and the rights and priorities of persons with disabilities in the areas of international cooperation, emergency response and humanitarian aid;

  • Encourage EU’s overseas delegations to employ persons with disabilities, and to provide necessary accommodations to enable employees with disabilities to perform their assignments successfully;

  • Ensure that the EU’s overseas delegations work on improving the access to assistive technology for the most marginalised groups, taking into consideration the priority assistive products list elaborated by WHO;

  • Invest in spreading awareness of disability rights in all countries beyond the EU where European funds are used;

  • Include persons with disabilities and accessibility across the EU external actions budget for the period 2020-2027 and invest in developing the capacities of the disability rights movements in the Global South to meaningfully engagement in development and humanitarian action;

  • Ensure that appropriate and sufficient support is provided for asylum-seekers and refugees with disabilities, as well as those who have become disabled while fleeing their country;

  • Work to foster agreement and commitment on disability inclusion in development cooperation on the global scene (UN, Council of Europe, OECD, World Bank Group); and among bilateral and multilateral development organisations;

  • Ensure the implementation of the new 2019 ECHO “Guidance note on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in EU-funded humanitarian aid operations” as well as the new “Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action”.

Please be assured that we are willing to provide any input required during the review of the Strategy, whenever requested. We look forward to our future collaboration and your continued support in promoting the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities in EU’s international cooperation, humanitarian action and external action.

With our thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Yannis Vardakastanis President European Disability Forum (EDF)

Ana Lucía Arellano Chair International Disability Alliance (IDA) President Red Latinoamericana de Personas con Discapacidad y sus Familias (RIADIS)

Ibrahim Abdallah President Arab Organisation of Persons with Disabilities

Shuaib Chalklen Chairperson African Disability Forum

Ngin Saorath Chairperson ASEAN Disability Forum

Setareki S. Macanawai Chief Executive Officer Pacific Disability Forum

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