AGENDA Launches Dialogue to Connect Disabled Persons' Organizations to ASEAN
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has taken a leading role in providing opportunities to facilitate collaboration among government representatives and disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs). IFES established the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA), a coalition in Southeast Asia focused on disability rights in elections, in 2011. AGENDA is a creative partnership among IFES, DPOs and civil society organizations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam and has organized regional dialogues, election monitoring, and media training, among many other initiatives.
On November 30, 2015, AGENDA organized an interface meeting among DPOs from all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries in Bangkok to discuss the DPOs’ position on ASEAN Vision 2025 and the draft ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR) Regional Plan of Action in preparation for the “AICHR Regional Dialogue on Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN Community” from December 1-3, 2015. The dialogue also addressed the recently published Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together. The AICHR Regional Dialogue was the first AICHR meeting to focus exclusively on disability rights in the region.
AGENDA participated in the development of an outcome document from the interface meeting, outlining support for greater rights of persons with disabilities in political participation and public life. The group called on ASEAN bodies and committees to increase access for persons with disabilities as part of the rights-based approach to development, pointing to the potential for persons with disabilities to become more visible through inclusive policies, and to enable them to raise issues and hold governments accountable.
H.E. Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to AICHR and a champion of disability rights, welcomed participants to the meeting. Dr. Seree noted in his remarks that AGENDA is breaking new ground, elevating discussion of disability rights to the regional level for the first time in the history of AICHR.
Panel discussions during the DPO interface included sharing best practices on disability rights among ASEAN countries, barriers faced by women with disabilities, and the creation of a regional plan of action. The ASEAN Regional Plan of Action (2016-2025) takes into account the current ASEAN Decade of Persons with Disabilities (2011-2020). During the dialogue, AICHR representatives also discussed the Regional Plan on Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which focuses on empowering the disability rights community by eliminating barriers and on mainstreaming disability rights throughout ASEAN.