First Haitian Conference on Disability Rights and Political Participation Held in Port-au-Prince
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) co-organized the first conference focused solely on electoral rights of persons with disabilities in Haiti. The two-day conference, entitled “Elections and Public Inclusive Politics as Prescribed by the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Haitian Law on the Integration of Persons with Disability,” brought together more than 60 leaders from political parties, government institutions, media and disability rights organizations to spark conversations and action on electoral accessibility.
Hosted by the Provisional Electoral Council of Haiti (CEP), a national network of Haitian disability organizations (RANIPH) and IFES, the conference provided a much-needed platform for key election stakeholders to discuss the urgent task of protecting fundamental political rights for persons with disabilities. Max Mathurin, the President of CEP, confirmed that “the Provisional Electoral Council is committed to putting in place all possible mechanisms to make upcoming elections more inclusive to persons with disabilities.”
Highlights of the conference included panels on the role of Haitian media in elections, the CEP’s future plans for greater electoral inclusion and best practices in electoral accessibility shared by IFES. IFES consultant Pamela Molina Toledo, a prominent international disability rights specialist from Chile who is also Deaf, presented on the positive impact and role of the CRPD throughout the Latin American and Caribbean region.
After learning more about the need for greater electoral accessibility, participants formed teams and began to identify barriers to full political participation, as well as potential solutions. On the final day of the conference, a declaration of principles for electoral accessibility was prepared and presented to all attendees, including the Haitian Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, Gerald Oriol.
The conference had a profound effect on its participants. Jessie Muscadin from local disabled persons’ organization (DPO), RANIPH, noted, “Haitian DPOs need to better understand the importance of their active participation as leaders for a change in society. This two-day conference has put on the national agenda the topic of disability and political participation. This is just the beginning!” By providing an open forum for discussion, Haitian leaders and advocates are equipped with a deeper understanding of relevant disability law and with new tools for building more accessible and inclusive elections for all.