Supporting ASEAN to Mainstream Disability Rights
In 2015, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) community achieved an important milestone: the tenth and final member state ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Disability rights thus emerged as an unexpected area of human rights consensus in the region. This agreement presented an early opportunity to demonstrate the ASEAN community’s more “people-oriented and people-centered” approach to regional integration and cooperation.
Responding to this opportunity, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), its regional human rights body, launched an initiative to develop a new regional instrument to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities across all ASEAN development objectives. Initially envisioned as a regional action plan, the initiative has grown in ambition and scope, becoming the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These positive regional developments mark the culmination of several years of engagement and advocacy with AICHR by the ASEAN General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA), a network of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and election-focused civil society organizations established by IFES in 2011.
To create the masterplan, AICHR formed the Task Force on Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which comprises representatives from AICHR, the Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development and the ASEAN Commission on the Rights of Women and Children. In May 2017, AGENDA, with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, began providing inputs to the task force’s draft plan. Framed around the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, a series of development blueprints for the region’s political-security, economic and social-cultural pillars, the new plan will ensure disability rights play an integral role in the region’s development agenda.
To ensure an inclusive approach to the masterplan process, AGENDA has facilitated technical collaboration between DPOs and key ASEAN officials since 2015, often at the annual AICHR Regional Dialogue on the Mainstreaming of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the ASEAN community. In June 2017, for example, AGENDA convened 23 DPOs from across all ASEAN member states to discuss three masterplan thematic areas: access to justice, inclusive entrepreneurship and disaster risk management. These discussions resulted in three position papers drafted with input from the DPOs that included detailed recommendations for policy action. Immediately following this effort, the DPOs participated in the third AICHR Regional Dialogue where they led breakout sessions on the position papers. This work ensured that the input of persons with disabilities went beyond just the implementation of new policies; instead, persons with disabilities were substantially involved in the process of policy formulation, shaping and informing the discussions that supported the masterplan drafting process.
As the masterplan initiative progresses in 2018, AGENDA will continue to provide technical guidance through its network of DPOs in coordination with other regional actors, particularly the ASEAN Disability Forum. This will also include organizing a meeting of DPOs to produce a fourth position paper on the political participation of persons with disabilities. The position paper and its policy recommendations will serve as key points of discussion at the seventh task force meeting and will further inform the masterplan.
IFES and AGENDA’s masterplan programming is supported by the Australian Government.