21.03.2015 A new standard for accessibility has been set

Officially the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) is over! Persons with disabilities were incredibly visible and active at this conference setting a precedent for future UN conferences. In total, 6500 participants attended the conference with hundreds of persons with disabilities and partners. Continue below for a summary of disability-related events and details from March 16-18.

ON 16 March Senator Monthian Buntan of Thailand and CRPD Committee Member presented the disability stakeholder group statement. You can read the disability stakeholders’ statement here (scroll down to 16 March, 3pm) and watch it here. Following this, Senator Buntan and Valerie Scherrer gave a joint press conference to the Japanese media with the Minster of State of the cabinet office of Japan. Please click here for details.

On 17 March many disability-focused events and sessions took place. First, there was disability participation in the High-Level Partnership Dialogue on “Inclusive Disaster Risk Management: Governments, Communities And Groups Acting Together.” Carlos Kaiser from ONG Inclusiva from Chile was a panellist with hundreds in the audience. Throughout the session, persons with disabilities were repeatedly highlighted indicating the strong visibility of persons with disabilities at the conference. Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF mentioned persons with disabilities in his presentation, as well as Hon. Mr. Nicola Valluzzi, President of the Province of Potenza, Italy.

Shortly afterward, Maryanne Diamond, Chair of The International Disability Alliance (IDA) presented on the IGNITE Stage on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 framework for DRR. Ms. Diamond presented on the importance of synergizing the DRR and post-2015 development frameworks. Click here to watch Ms. Diamond’s presentation.

At a venue outside the Sendai International Centre, the Disability-Inclusive DRR Network (DiDRRN) hosted a side event focusing on DiDRR especially in areas and challenges in rural contexts and for women and girls with disabilities. This too was well attended with excellent global representation.

Also on 17 March, the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) organised event over Universal Design and Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction featuring collaboration with CBM on accessibility. Specifically, CBM has worked on accessibility in Haiti since 2010, first on promoting and ensuring accessibility in camps and mainstreaming universal design in the reconstruction, awareness-raising, training and technical expertise delivery.

In the afternoon, there was a working session specifically focusing on the proactive participation of persons with disabilities in inclusive disaster risk reduction for all. This was very well attended with many positive comments from the floor. Click here to read more about the session. Closing the session the Latvian Vice-minister of Foreign Affairs announced that all EU States agree to DiDRR commitments.

On 18 March, an event organized by Overseas Development Institute took place at the IGNITE Stage focusing on the integration of gender, age, disability, and cultural perspectives in the post-2015 framework for DRR. The aim was to highlight the importance of the integration of gender, age, disability and cultural perspectives in DRR. Click here to watch this presentation.

Outcome Document Adopted

After many delays Member States adopted the outcome document at midnight, officially called the “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” (SFDRR). Persons with disabilities are well represented in the document, including disaggregated data by disability. Importantly, this document can be a model for the post-2015 development process in terms of the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Click here for details.

Margareta Wahlström, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, gave an excellent final speech at the closing of the conference. In her speech she emphasized how persons with disabilities have been visible and actively engaged in the conference, which was followed by a strong round of applause by the audience (28-minute mark). She continued by indicating that the WCDRR was one of, if not the most accessible UN conference ever held (29-minute mark). Powerfully, she stated that now a new standard for accessibility has been set (29-minute mark) also followed by strong applause. Click here to watch the incredible speech.

While there is no specific link to the post-2015 development agenda or climate change in the outcome document, the importance of this connection was emphasized in Margareta Wahlström’s closing speech in which she described reducing risk as “the bridge” between climate change and sustainable development.

Final key points and quotes from the conference

  • On 14 March the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe pledged $US 4 billion to support the implementation of the “Sendai Cooperation Initiative for Disaster Risk Reduction” over the next four years.
  • This conference has been such a success for persons with disabilities. We have participation of persons with disabilities similar to a Conference of States Parties to the CRPD, but it’s a mainstreamed conference. – Vladimir Cuk, IDA
  • On the adoption of disaggregation of data by disability in the post-2015 DRR framework at WCDRR: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for our community.”- Ádám Kósa, the first signing Deaf EU Parliamentarian (Hungary)
  • We are here to make sure no one is left behind. –Carlos Kaiser, ONG Inclusiva, Chile
  • My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. –Setareki Macanawai (Pacific Disability Forum) quoting Desmond Tutu
  • People with multiple disabilities also have the right to live. –Sonia Margarita Villacres, World Federation of the Deaf Blind, Ecuador
  • My passion is change, because change is the only sustainable thing in the world. –Muhammad Atif Shetkh, South Asian Disability Forum, Pakistan

Additional Information

Post-2015 Disaster Risk Reduction framework is disability-inclusive

UNISDR article on Inclusion builds Resilience

Sendai UN World Conference hailed for accessibility

Margareta’s link to the SDGs