On the 7th of February Sif Holst, candidate for the CRPD for the Government of Denmark and the Vice Chair of the Disabled Peoples Organization Denmark, spent the day in New York, at the permanent mission of Denmark to the UN. During the day she took a series of bilateral meetings with representatives of the permanent missions of a number of member states as well as representatives from several organizations. A few themes were present in most conversations: learning from the Covid-pandemic and addressing the consequences, engaging with civil society and how to engage the member states and put the CRPD front and center in their thinking.
The pandemic has had a profound effect on the entire world, but among those that are most severely affected are people with a disability. The consequences are manifold and varied and of course also so when it comes to people with disabilities. Some have thrived in isolation and in online classes, but others have seriously fallen behind or suffered. Some have had greater success with gaining employment because suddenly the employers realized that the work could be done from home – eliminating accessibility including transportation problems for people with physical impairments and some have lost their jobs or have moved even further away from employment. “All these experiences must be learned from and used or improved upon,” says CRPD candidate, Sif Holst.
Another topic close to the heart of both Sif Holst and many of the nations she talked to is the further inclusion of civil society in the work of promoting, implementing, and reviewing the CRPD. The experiences and resources of civil society are crucial to the implementation of the CRPD. Civil society is on a daily basis inventing ways of being inclusive and exactly this focus on solutions is a key not only to the implementation of the CRPD in the member states but also to the cooperation between member states and the monitoring of the implementation of the CRPD.
But how to work with a rights-based approach on a day-to-day basis and even more important how to actually make things happen in a complex system like the UN? Sif Holst sees primarily three ways of making a difference.
There’s a powerful lesson to be learned from how the SDG’s have been taken aboard within all nations and not just on a government level but even in business and industry and in civil society. The SDG’s now belong to all of us, and we are all responsible for fulfilling the goals. This must be the aspiration of the CRPD as well.
Taking an approach of intersectionality is another important tool. The issues and challenges of peoples with disabilities are not just the issues that challenges of people with disabilities. “No one is just a person with a disability. We are women, mothers, teachers, brick layers and so on. And we often forget that people with disabilities face the same problem as every other woman or man, on top of their issues with disabilities,” Sif Holst explains. This also means, that disability rights are also a matter of women’s rights, children’s rights and so on. Issues of discrimination are everywhere in our societies and must be approached from all directions at once.
A third way is of course listening and talking with nations and not about nations. “We can’t always assume that we have the best solution to every problem. In the Scandinavian countries for example we often assume, that we have all the answers when it comes to the social issues, but we don’t. We must be open to all solutions,” says Sif Holst. Inspiration for solutions can come from anywhere and important knowledge can be lost by not listening. Sometime the first step is just getting the conversation started.