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New initiative to strengthen cooperation between Arab and EU countries on disability rights

Blind woman walking in the street with her guide dog White cane in one hand while holding the dog with the other.
Photo: Shutterstock

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 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.

During the virtual ceremony, 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.

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.

“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.

For his part, 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.

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.

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