“See Me, Hear Me, Accept Me” – Building Knowledge from Voice -World We Want ‘People’s Voices’ Series
The second World We Want ‘People’s Voices’ Series took place on August 19 and addressed the topic of persons with disabilities and the post-2015 agenda. Building off the inaugural ‘People’s Voices’ event, which challenged and offered a true definition of voice and participation in a setting such as post-2015, similar base themes about perception, social inclusion and participation were again the main focus.
The event was moderated by Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), and panelists included Gopal Mitra (UNICEF), Vladimir Cuk (International Disability Alliance), Jenny Zhong (Special Olympics) and Akemi Nishida (City University of New York).
The event opened with a video presentation from Special Olympics entitled “Urgent Enough” which was introduced by Special Olympics Senior Vice President Stephen Neill as he stressed Special Olympics’ leadership role in breaking barriers in providing access to basic services such as health care, education and recreation for persons with disabilities.
A major question posed was how persons with disabilities have participated in the post-2015 agenda so far. Vladimir Cuk, as a member of Civil Society engaging directly in post-2015 stated that he was very pleased with how strongly the High Level Panel report had integrated persons with disabilities. Gopal Mitra echoed that persons with disabilities had contributed at a high level in the consultations hosted by UNICEF and partners, but then stressed that “we must now make sure that these voices become a major part of the outcomes, documents and agreements to follow.”
Vladimir Cuk then challenged that more effort was needed across the board to integrate voices from the global south, that a major lobbying push would be needed to ensure full participation of persons with disabilities during the High-Level Meeting on September 23rd, and challenged the Open Working Group and other political processes to come to fully integrate the disability community.
The discussion then shifted to participation and representation through the lens of persons with disabilities. Jenny Zhong mentioned that at its core, Special Olympics is about empowerment mentioning their Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) that produce Global Messengers with intellectual disability trained to speak on policy and governance. She also mentioned that while the idea is to promote rights, well-being and perspective of persons with disabilities, it is often perspective that is left out.
It is about emphasizing intersecting identities, said Akemi Nishida. “We embody multiple identities: some are women with disabilities, some are lesbians and gays with disabilities, some are queer women of color with disabilities, or some are indigenous people with disabilities” adding that an important aspect of working with groups such as persons with disabilities is to work with all types of communities, networks and organizations.
Gopal Mitra added accessibility as a key, stating that we are essentially “talking about making this population visible.” If 15 percent of the world’s population comprise of persons with disabilities we should see more persons with disabilities participating in daily life. Mitra went on to say we need to make sure that processes are accessible so that proper participation can occur across society.
This was a general consensus across the group, with the panel concluding that it did not happen with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but that it must happen with the formulation of goals post-2015.
Hosted by the World We Want Policy and Strategy Group, the World We Want ‘People’s Voices’ Series aims to ensure that people themselves continue to have a strong voice in the Post-2015 process. Each month, this series will host a lively discussion on topics relevant to this exciting development process.
The Live Stream Recording of the event can be found here.