People with disabilities face many barriers exercising one of their most fundamental rights as individuals – the right to engage meaningfully in civic and political life. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth unprecedented challenges for millions globally and disproportionally affected marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities. As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its Member States develop policies and strategies for COVID-19 response and recovery, it is important to uphold regional and national level commitments to the breakthrough regional policy framework, the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ASEAN Enabling Masterplan) to ensure persons with disabilities are included in this process.
On March 30-31, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) organized the two-day virtual Fifth Regional Disability Rights Dialogue to strengthen joint advocacy and cross-regional collaboration for disability inclusion, engaging 229 participants from national governments, ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, private sector companies, academics, students, digital influencers and youth across Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia as well as Fiji, Guatemala, New Zealand, Australia, Barbados, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya and Mali, expanding the AGENDA network’s global reach.
Regional and National Government Commitments to Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Minister of Manpower of the Republic of Indonesia Ida Fauziyah delivered keynote remarks that reiterated Indonesia’s commitment to fulfilling the one percent employment quota to hire persons with disabilities in the private and public sectors. Minister Ida Fauziyah encouraged fellow ASEAN Member States to work together to adopt inclusive employment policies and accessible workplaces for persons with disabilities, highlighting the significance of using incentives build inclusive workforces for COVID-19 recovery. Within the week, Minister Ida Fauziyah’s commitments received country-wide recognition from five national Indonesian news outlets.
“The value of AGENDA’s regional dialogues rests in the strong participation of disability partners to explore challenges and be part of the solutions. Australia continues to support organizations representing people with disabilities to engage with ASEAN bodies to contribute to disability inclusion. We encourage the active involvement of persons with disabilities in the Enabling Masterplan’s implementation.” - Acting Counsellor for Development, Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Danielle Sever
Opening remarks presented by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the U.S. Department of State highlighted international commitments calling for the actualization of the political and civic rights of persons with disabilities by supporting ongoing collaboration between organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), civil society partners and ASEAN institutions. The panel that followed included the Representative of Thailand to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Dr. Amara Pongsapich and the Director of ASEAN Cooperation’s Sub-Division within the Office of the Permanent Secretary in Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security Siripong Sriarkha. Both panelists discussed how the ASEAN communities can further collaborate and engage with disability advocates and OPDs across a range of key issues facing the region, including COVID-19 recovery policies.
“The U.S. is fostering accountability and capacity building for the promotion, protection and advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities and advancing disability inclusive democracy launched at the Summit for Democracy.” - Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary at the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, U.S. Department of State, Francisco Bencosme
Private Sector Best Practices for Disability Inclusion
Colin Blackwell, Founder of EnableCode, explained how the Vietnamese technology company builds cross-sector partnerships for disability inclusive employment opportunities by leveraging Amazon’s global program training program for persons with disabilities to learn cloud computing in Vietnam. EnableCode coordinates with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and Vietnamese charities to identify participants, while Amazon provides the training and job placement, and Intel provides mentors for the trainees. AGENDA’s regional dialogue highlighted key insights from Kerjabilitas, a career social network platform connecting persons with disabilities to accessible job providers in Indonesia, (these)Abilities, a design and technology company based in Singapore that builds accessible products and assistive technologies, and L’Oreal Indonesia’s inclusive hiring practices.
Amplifying the Voices of Persons with Disabilities and Youth Communities
Through interactive breakout rooms, participants drafted a series of recommendations and presented them to government officials and private sector companies focusing on electoral access, civic participation, employment accessible information and engaging young people.
In partnership with winner of Indonesia’s 2014 Got Talent Putri Ariani, a musician who is blind, and Indonesian influencer Husein Ja’far Al Hadar, IFES developed a series of promotional videos encouraging young people to participate in the regional dialogue and support the Enabling Masterplan’s implementation under the hashtag #EnablingMasterplan, which reached 1.1 million impressions on TikTok. AGENDA also collaborated with ASEAN Youth Organization and ASEAN Youth Forum to ensure that youth perspectives were a central focus of the dialogue, from drafting the breakout room recommendations to the panel discussions.
Founded in 2011, the AGENDA network is a creative partnership of IFES organizations, OPDs and civil society organizations across Southeast Asia working to improve access to political and electoral opportunities for people with disabilities through increased public awareness and advocacy for change. The AGENDA program is currently funded by DFAT and the U.S. Department of State and previously funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Published on June 8, 2022.