It seems like yesterday that I last blogged, when I was so inspired about the shift in attitude towards disability from vulnerable to active participation. I’m still excited about it, and after the conference declaration was released today it looks like we are still on course.
The last few days here at the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in Bangkok has seen people from many different countries sharing their opinions on the way forward in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
They’ve been showing examples from their home communities by giving live presentations and showing videos, and asking questions and raising issues during debates.
As you’ll have seen if you’ve been following us on Twitter or Facebook (do click the links!) we took part in all this, with our partners from the Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DiDRRN), including representative from many Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) from the region.
We all know what we want – to make the post HFA document properly disability-inclusive, meaning that persons with disabilities are actively involved in DRR processes – and I seen so many great arguments for it. People have described it in different ways: People with disabilities should be seen as ‘agents of change, not vulnerable‘, ‘leaders, not liabilities‘, or ‘empowered decision makers, not passive recipients‘. Even Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for DRR, said that the path ahead requires an inclusive and participatory work model involving everyone, during her opening speech on Tuesday.
This morning, the final declaration from the conference was released and includes reference to inclusion, disability and accessibility, in the context of ‘meaningful participation’ and ‘positive contribution’. Also, after Atif Sheikh, from our partner STEP, read the voluntary commitments from the disability stakeholder group, Ms Wahlström endorsed the right of persons with disability to be actively present in these discussions.
So all in all, good; a productive few days (plus all the hard work that has been done in the lead up to this week!)
But there is still so much to be done: we must make sure that the message remains loud and clear right up to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan next March, and beyond. As Dodo (see below) said, “Let us persons with disabilities come together and show the world that, if empowered, we can build a better society”
I’ll leave you with some impressions and opinions from the last few days… enjoy.
I was part of a panel discussion on media, for international journalists, about disability inclusion in DRR and the role of the media. It must have been successful because I ran out of business cards to give out after it… let’s see how many people use them!
CBM also organised two similar events through the week: one for Thai journalists and one for young journalists. These were also successful, with the latter one featured on the conference newsletter today.
Son Do, who is from Vietnam, is deaf, and works as a sign language translator/teacher. He is developing a project including a video for deaf people to learn about Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM), which he showed as a side event during the conference.
The video shows a mapping system with accessible icons showing features like houses where people with disabilities live, areas affected by flooding, and evacuation paths.
Dodo (right, wearing shorts) and Parman (furthest left) are from Indonesia, and are seen here during one of the plenary sessions. Dodo is the leader of a health volunteer group which focuses on inclusion of persons with disabilities in mainstream services. Both men have been identified as potential DRR leaders in their communities and told me they are looking forward to putting their learnings from the conference into practice at home.
Litia, from Fiji, is a Community Based Inclusive Development officer with CBM partner Pacific Disability Forum.
She says “I am the expert in disability … I know the development that can happen if we are included”.
She goes to village, provincial and district meetings, persuading committees of the rights of persons with disabilities, and put her point across in style on stage yesterday, when she said that “Active inclusion of persons with disability in DRR will change mindsets”