By Hisayo Katsui
(-> Taken in front of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development in Kyrgyzstan with a Kyrgyz disability activist, Gulmira Kazakunova in her wheelchair, and my assistant Farkhat Yussupjanov who has visual impairment.)
Our team members of this project have been playing many roles, not only as researchers working on Ugandan disability issues. I’m not an exception. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Central Asian countries for evaluating a development cooperation project between Finnish and Central Asian DPOs. (I would like to thank all the people who have supported my work!!) My last visit to Central Asia was five years ago for my PhD study. Uganda is somewhat known in the disability sphere, while Central Asia could be the other extreme. In this article, I would like to discuss fundamental failure of a human rights-based approach taking place in Central Asia. “Central Asia” refers to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, in this specific context.
These countries are still somewhat “difficult countries” for donors in many senses. Particularly Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan widely restrict non-governmental associational activities especially when they use “human rights” as a key concept. That is, “nothing about us, without us” cannot be fully implemented when DPO activities are restricted. Although Turkmenistan ratified the Convention as the first country in Central Asia, that has nothing to do with disability movement because it is non-existent. The development cooperation project that I was commissioned to evaluate included both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, but its impacts to these countries remained extremely limited due to the severe political environment for any associational activities in general. Similar result was observed in my PhD study.
The Convention has the article of international cooperation (Article 32), which highlights international development cooperation to be inclusive of persons with disabilities. Non-discrimination and equality are important human rights principles. However, in reality, limited resources are allocated to persons with disabilities in “easier countries” earlier, if not first. Even within the countries, local power structure plays a role. That is to say, priority making is extremely difficult in reality. The most marginalised groups of people among persons with disabilities might be the last ones in the queue.
I will study more on this marginalisation in the on-going research project on Uganda by paying special attention to deaf women.
If you are interested in knowing more about disability in Central Asia, please take a look at my article published this year, or more in detail in my PhD thesis:
Katsui, H. (2008) “Human Rights-Based Approach and DPOs in Central Asia.” Journal of Disability and International Cooperation Vol.2/2008. P.21-26.
Katsui, H. (2005) Towards Equality ~Creation of the Disability Movement in Central Asia~. Helsinki University Press. Helsinki.