On the International Day of Disabilities, December 3rd, a webinar was held on participation of persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities in political and public life. The webinar was co-organized by UNDP and the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior, and in partnership with Inclusion International and the UNPRPD MPTF. The webinar marked the launch of the report and during the webinar the issues facing persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities in political and electoral processes and public life were discussed and good practices and lessons learned globally were shared.
The webinar can be watched and the report can be read here:
During the webinar Sif Holst gave the following speech:
Thank you for the chance to speak at this important event. My name is Sif Holst, I am a person with a rare physical disability and a wheelchair user, I am vice-chair of Disabled Peoples Organisations Denmark and a board member of the Danish Institute of Human Rights.
The participation of all citizens is a fundamental democratic principle. The rights of every person to equal participation in public affairs, to vote and to be elected, and to have access to public service are affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
This is how this publication start. It is a matter of basic rights, but also about when we are fully included. If we are not recognized, if our opinions are not valued, if our voices are silenced. If we are left out. How can we then feel like a part of society?
We have to make a change, it is not worthy of our societies to continue as before.
And with this publication, we get a tool to deal with the multiple legal, institutional, and social barriers. To make sure that, hopefully in the not to distant future, persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities will be allowed to vote and we can vote for them as they can stand for office.
It is of great importance, that persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities can participate in society in general, be a part of civil society and can make decisions in their own lives.
This publication is based on the voices of this important group of people. Nothing about us, without us is vital, also in this work.
The voices of persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities tells us of what we need to do.
Governments, parliament, national human rights institutions, NGOs, political parties, media and many others are nudged to honor their obligations.
And to make it all practical, a series of indicators guide us on our way and lets us measure progress.
As we move forward with this work, we must pay special attention to groups who might also be excluded for other reasons.
An intellectual or psychosocial disability might not be the only disability and it is of little use to remove one set of barriers if you still experience barriers related to the use of a wheelchair or if you are visually or hearing impaired. Not to forget other types of invisible disabilities.
Women and girls face other difficulties than men and boys do and when we fight for the right to have a voice for persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, we must also include the fight for sexual and reproductive rights and the freedom from exploitation, violation and abuse.
And across the world we see people struggling with discrimination due to ethnicity, religion, sexuality. We see indigenous people discriminated against. And we witness elderly being set aside. An elderly person with an intellectual or psychosocial disability mush not be forgotten either – nor a child with an intellectual or psychosocial disability.
Let me finish up by quoting these words from the publication, words that touched my heart:
“Messy and imperfect ideas, vigorous disagreement and a plurality of views are central tenants of every country that purports to respect the concepts of equality and the rule of law. Electoral inclusion is embedded in international human rights law and in this sense, is not up for debate. The focus of political attention should pivot away from how to justify the exclusion of marginalized groups, to how to make the electoral process accessible and available to them all.”
Thank you for an amazing piece of work, I look forward to doing what I can to secure the implementation of the recommendations.