United Nations Side Event on Political Rights of Persons with Disabilities
On June 15, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations co-organized a side event on “How Establishing Partnerships with Multiple Types of Stakeholders Helps to Increase Access to the Political Process.” The side event took place as part of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an annual meeting of countries that have ratified the CRPD and disability rights advocates from around the world, held at the UN headquarters in New York City.
The panel was opened by Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN A.S. Khan, who noted that both CRPD Article 29 on political and public life and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 on peace, justice, and strong institutions apply to the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities.
Each speaker framed the discussion in the context of a different type of partnership between disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and other electoral stakeholders such as election commissions, political parties, human rights councils and women’s groups. IFES Senior Access and Inclusion Specialist Virginia Atkinson provided international examples of collaboration from the Philippines, where IFES supported an inclusive voter registration pilot project in shopping malls that was then expanded across the country, Kosovo, where the Central Election Commission set up call centers staffed with voters with disabilities to answer questions on election access, and the Dominican Republic, in which IFES and local DPO La Red produced a sensitization campaign to reduce stigma against persons with disabilities. Senarath Attanayake, Uva provincial councillor from Sri Lanka, discussed ways political parties can engage the disability community. Dr. Ashraf Marei, secretary general of the Egyptian National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA), focused on NCDA’s work with a number of stakeholders, including through the country’s first national conference on electoral access.
Silvia Quan of International Disability Alliance, a former CRPD Committee member, discussed the leadership gap that exists between men and women with disabilities and of women with disabilities in mainstream women’s movements. Finally, Mohammed Atif Sheikh, president of the Special Talent and Exchange Program of Pakistan, provided a brief history on how Pakistan began to include persons with disabilities in electoral processes through the Ministry of Human Rights and information on some of the initiatives that have been undertaken by DPOs, including a mobile application that provides accessible information on elections to voters with disabilities.