Unity, Development, Peace and Hope in Latin America and the Caribbean

RIADIS, the Latin American Network of Non-Governmental Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and their Families, held its 6th international conference from 13-17 March in Havana, Cuba. The theme was “Inclusive Latin America, in Unity, Development, Peace and Hope.” RIADIS, founded in 2002 in Venezuela, is comprised of 55 organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) from 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, many of which were present at the conference with approximately 250 participants in attendance. The conference included an International Congress, a General Assembly, and parallel events on youth with disabilities and Indigenous peoples with disabilities. In addition, commissions on Indigenous, youth, and women with disabilities were established at the conference.

The overall objective of the conference was to continue to promote the progress and achievement of the inclusion of persons with disabilities from Latin America and the Caribbean. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were both strongly highlighted throughout the conference as key frameworks for persons with disabilities and their representative organizations for the region with the respective aligned themes of “nothing about us without us” and “leave no one behind.”

Alt="Panel presentation at conference"

Panel presentation at conference

I am incredibly honored for the opportunity to attend this conference on behalf of CBM. The experience was a valuable one in which I was able to participate in various ways. I presented twice during the International Congress, was an official observer during the General Assembly, and assisted as a sign language interpreter when needed.

On the opening day, I presented with Victor Baute from Venezuela on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. The presentation highlighted the regional trainings by the International Disability Alliance and the International Disability and Development Consortium (in Panama) and CBM (in Peru), but also called for further capacity building and training for regional DPOs linking the CRPD, the 2030 Agenda and BRIDGE.

Alt="Sign Language Interpreters from the RIADIS conference"

Sign Language Interpreters from the RIADIS conference

Additionally, I presented the work of the CBM regional office in Latin America and the Caribbean. Specifically, CBM has 50 projects in 11 countries throughout the region. In Central America we work in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; in the Caribbean, we work in Cuba and Haiti; and in South America, we have projects in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay with Bolivia, Guatemala and Haiti as priority countries of focus.

The following are two examples of CBM projects in the region. First, in response to Hurricane Matthew, CBM provided water supplies to hurricane-affected communities in East Cuba. Second, CBM supported a data collection project on the prevalence of persons with disabilities in Guatemala. CBM, CONADI (National Disability Council of Guatemala), and UNICEF Guatemala were project funders with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine providing technical assistance. The Washington Group on Disability Statistics extended set of questions for adults and UNICEF/Washington Group extended set of questions for children were used with more than 13,000 participants. Click here to read more about the survey.

In closing, I was very touched by the warm welcome from the Cuban people and the participants. I am so grateful to be working in this region again and to connect our global work to the local, national and regional levels.