During the event, a press conference was given by Patrick Clarke, Chief Executive, Down Syndrome Ireland; Gufroni Sakaril, President, Indonesia Disabled People’s Association; H.E. Ambassador Hasan Kleib, Director General for Multilateral Affairs,Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia and Yusdiana, AGENDA Disability Rights Advisor, Indonesia Disabled People’s Association.
From November 10-11, the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) held the Second Regional Dialogue on Access to Elections for Persons with Disabilities. At this two-day event, disability advocates, election management bodies, election monitoring organizations, nongovernmental organizations, donors, and academics from 17 countries shared best practices for improving election access for persons with disabilities.
AGENDA, which was established to improve access to political and electoral opportunities for persons with disabilities in Southeast Asia, brings together local organizations to discuss their experiences and form an organized advocacy effort.
Participants and speakers engaged in in-depth discussions about the obstacles voters with disabilities face when trying to access all stages of the electoral and political process. They also discussed practical solutions to make the electoral process more accessible for all.
Each day, plenary sessions covered topics such as how the ASEAN Decade for Persons with Disabilities and the forthcoming ASEAN Human Rights Declaration protect the political rights of persons with disabilities. Chaired by prominent individuals involved in disability rights, elections and international development, panels examined the importance of the equal participation of all citizens in the electoral process. Panels also reviewed the legal charters that can be drawn upon to guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.
Speakers included Hadar N. Gumay and Ferry Kurnia Rizkiyansya, commissioners of the General Elections Commission (KPU) of Indonesia; Rene Vergara Sarmiento, commissioner of the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC); Tika Dahal, general secretary of the National Federation of the Disabled Nepal; Michael Bergmann, director governance policy and principal sector specialist governance with AusAID; and Andrew Sisson, mission director for USAID Indonesia.
The conference also included breakout sessions that allowed smaller groups to examine the Philippine experience with voter registration for persons with disabilities, strategies for engaging with election management bodies and persons with disabilities pursuing political candidacy.
The conference concluded with interactive discussion on the Bali Commitments, a document adopted by participants that affirms their commitment to equal access to voting and political rights for all.