On December 3rd – the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – I had the opportunity to present twice at the United Nations. First, I gave a statement on persons with disabilities, DRR and the process to Sendai at a UN press conference. This was organised to promote persons with disabilities to media outlets and was well attended and received. I presented on behalf of CBM and our partner, The International Disability Alliance. With the quick collaboration of Valérie Scherrer, Gordon Rattray and IDA we were able to compose a strong statement in no time. Thanks, colleagues! You can read the press release here and watch the press conference here.
Afterward, I was part of a panel discussion on “the Promise of Technologies: Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Action.” This event was organized by UN DESA and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations and the Nippon Foundation.
H.E. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations gave the opening remarks and Dr. Hiroshi Kawamura, focal point on disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction, International Organizing Committee on disaster risk reduction, moderated the panel. My fellow panellists included the inspirational Ms. Akiko Fukuda, Secretary-General of the World Federation of the Deafblind, Japan and the informative Ms. Elina Palm, Liaison Officer of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) office in New York.
I was very honoured to be included in this panel and learned quite a bit from the others. Ms. Fukuda provided moving words and asked the audience if we truly are enjoying our lives. Her powerful words were quite touching. She had an excellent quote about persons with disabilities and technology: “people create technology, but technology does not create people.”
The following day I presented in Washington D.C. at an event sponsored by the InterAction Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group over “Hidden Populations: Improving Your Impact for the Most Marginalized.” The event explored “hidden populations” in humanitarian and development work. Examples of hidden populations in the panel discussion included persons with disabilities, older people and LGBTI individuals. We touched upon how particular parts of populations are always present, with specific needs, but not highly visible. I presented with Bethany Brown, Policy Director, HelpAge USA (who kindly invited me to be part of this panel) and Rachel Levitan, Senior Counsel, Refugees and Migration, HIAS. This event was a lovely way to learn from other marginalized populations and find common ground.
I’ll end on this powerful quote, once again, from Ms. Fukuda: “Let people like me out of their houses and into their communities and small steps will create big change.”