Persons with disabilities from the global South met Anne Sipiläinen and Judy Heumann in Finland

(<--Ms. Anne Sipiläinen, the Undersecretary of State in Finland, is on the back in the middle surrounded by the Abilis coordinators from the global South.) Abilis Foundation had a one-week-seminar during this week with its coordinators from 11 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mozambique, Nepal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The partner organization from Somaliland was not granted a visa and could not participate to this seminar. I am going to be in charge of evaluation of Abilis Foundation for the coming 3 years, and I joined four sessions of the seminar. The first is the visit to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs when the international coordinators met with Anne Sipiläinen, the Undersecretary of State in charge of development cooperation and development policy. She took one whole hour to listen to advices and experiences of working with persons with disabilities. Everyone in the meeting was given the opportunity to express one’s experiences and suggestions to the Ministry. After each suggestion, she deeply showed her interests and expressed the importance to disability rights. On the basis of my own research experiences, I suggested the Ministry to pay attention to 1) the ownership of persons with disabilities in its both top-down and bottom-up development cooperation activities, and 2) the prerequisites for persons with disabilities in the global South to be able to access development cooperation activities including Abilis Foundation. I also added the importance of research to remember in this area! It was very encouraging to have witnessed that the person of that high rank in the Ministry was interested in meeting the international guests of Abilis Foundation. Secondly, I facilitated the discussion on evaluation in the field of disability. The coordinators gave advices to what I should pay attention and on what kind of indicators could measure impacts in this particular field. Thirdly, I gave a lecture with Rea Konttinen on human rights-based approach to disability and development.
Fourthly, the Abilis Foundation invited us all to the farewell dinner and Judy Heumann joined us as the guest of honor. She is here in Finland to advocate for disability rights. Today she met among others the President of Finland and the Foreign Minister. She also spoke in the Parliament seminar prior to this dinner on the importance of paying more attention to disability rights. Finland has been enjoying to host these important international guests and been creating momentum to disability rights to be mainstreamed. I sincerely hope that the series of events will lead to political will and leadership to respect, protect and fulfill disability rights not only in Finland but also in its international cooperation. (--> Ms. Judy Heumann, the Special Advisor of International Disability Rights in the U.S. Department of State)


Hisayo in New York as the assistant of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability between 10-16.9.

(Picture: The Special Rapportuer, Shuaib Chalklen, in front of the United Nations.) The Rapporteur attended the Civil Society Forum, the 5th Conference of State Parties (COSP5) of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities, Partners’ Forum by UNICEF. He spoke, chaired and concluded various sessions during the aforementioned events. Moreover, he had 16 personal meetings with different disability stakeholders including UN agencies’ representatives, the African Union Ambassador to the United Nation, bi-lateral donors, and global and local organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs). I had this great opportunity to experience and observe these events and meetings as the Rapportuer’s assistant. The schedule was really hectic starting from early morning with breakfast meetings till late at night with dinner meetings. But it was extremely empowering experience for me, or anybody there. Main agenda was to find ways together and individually in increasing visibility of disability in the high level meeting on disability in September 2013 among the member states of the United Nations, thereby also that in the post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The mistake of MDGs not including disability rights should not be repeated, which was the consensus for the post-2015 agenda. The disability stakeholders will ensure that their united voice will be heard. The Rapporteur was one of them trying to highlight the importance of these forthcoming events. The Rapporteur had another important aim for this trip: to get consensus on the establishment of African Disability Forum under the African Union Disability Architecture. The Forum will disseminate information to primarily African DPOs but also to the government officials. Information available at an international level had many times failed to reach at African disability stakeholders including the Rapporteur himself. Such information dissemination initiated by the Forum is expected to increase capacity of disability stakeholders. Everybody he talked on this Forum was in the same opinion that lack of information is one of the major challenges in Africa. Although this is the initiative of the Rapporteur, many stakeholders would like to give their inputs and ideas for this Forum, which has complicated the establishment process. This is unavoidable to go through, as opinions of relevant stakeholders have to be exhausted for establishing an activity at the African Continental level as this one. However, such discussions could also be driven by own interests of individuals or interests of different agencies that they represent for. Disability is diverse, development partners have complicated relationships among themselves, and personal feelings are also involved when it comes to issues around disability. The Rapporteur has not been successful in raising fund for this Forum activity yet. But it could become even more complicated when money is found, for doing a simple activity for increasing capacity of disability stakeholders in Africa. The meetings observation has taught me some challenges of making consensus in this field. I was totally overwhelmed by the scale of the global disability movement with powerful advocators including the Rapporteur himself, the vice-president of Ecuador in his wheelchair, and many, many others. As disability is too often considered as a minor subject in reality, I was greatly encouraged as a disability researcher to have witnessed this movement with my eyes in front of me. I hope many more younger disability stakeholders will have chances to attend such meetings as these ones. I am full of energy to move forward with my disability research works thanks to this trip!