The forum placed a special focus on Africa and the developing world, and aimed to inspire debate and contemplation on the topic of social inclusion, tackling issues such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), its implementation, and the challenges of promoting the social inclusion of people with disabilities across the developing world and especially in Mozambique. Conclusions were drawn regarding ways in which Austria can work to support social inclusion in such countries.
Participants in the event included representatives from the Austrian National Council; the second Vice-President of the Mozambican Parliament, Hon. Younusse Amad; and NGO representatives from both Mozambique and Germany.
The forum was opened by the Secretary-General of the Austrian Parliament, Dr. Harald Dossi, who explained that the Austrian parliament building does not currently meet the accessibility criteria of the UN CRPD. He called for this to be considered in the renovation of the building in the coming years, while recognising that inclusion must not be limited to physical aspects, but must also include the social environment.
Speaking on the situation in Mozambique, Hon. Amad and, Mr. Rui Maquene and Mr. Jorge Manhique of the Fórum das associações Mocambiçanas dos deficientes (FAMOD) agreed that there is a wide gap between law and practice in Mozambique. Among the challenges they stated were a lack of familiarity among the relevant bodies with the National Action Plan; insufficient availability of data; the absence of control mechanisms or bodies; and inadequate financial and human resources.
The speeches were followed by lively working group discussions on political decision-making as well as the education, training and employment of people living with disabilities.
In his closing remarks, Hon. Franz-Joseph Huainigg, Deputy Head of the AWEPA Austria Section, recognised the successful dialogue between the Austrian Parliament and the Parliament of Mozambique, and the need to make the challenges of people with disabilities in development cooperation visible.
Today, over one billion people worldwide live with a disability, a figure significantly higher than previously thought. About 80 percent of these people live in developing countries, where they are particularly vulnerable, often having to face prejudice, marginalisation, stigmatisation and even complete exclusion from society.
Poverty and poor living conditions can contribute to a manifestation of disability. But disability also creates poverty, because the possibilities of people with disabilities to support themselves through an income generating job are often very low.
In this context, the UN CRPD was adopted in 2006. The Convention, which was ratified in the Austrian National Council in 2008, lays down the official right to self-determination, participation in society, equal opportunities and accessibility for people with disabilities. Its guiding principle, social inclusion, is defined as the equal participation of persons with disabilities in everyday life.