From 16-20 March, the 37th Plenary session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly took place in Bucharest, under the Romanian presidency of the European Union (EU). This was a key opportunity for parliamentarians from the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to come together and discuss different mechanisms and processes towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Due to the EU commitment towards the rights of persons with disabilities, demonstrated by the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in addition to its key role as the biggest donor on international development, the Cotonou agreement has been one of the key advocacy processes for CBM. CBM has supported the Committee on Social Affairs and the Environment of the JPA through the adoption of the Report on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in developing countries in 2011, the Declaration on putting youth, especially young persons with disabilities, at the heart of the ACP-EU relations in June 2018. As a follow-up and with the objective of influencing the next cooperation framework, CBM was invited as speaker in the 36th Plenary session of the JPA, which took place in Cotonou (Benin) in December 2018.
The Cotonou agreement – a framework for a regional cooperation between the EU and ACP countries
In 2000, the Cotonou agreement was signed by the EU and 79 countries from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions for a period of 20 years. This agreement had the objective of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and it is based on three pillars: development, political and economic and trade cooperation. The Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) is a coordination mechanism included in the Cotonou agreement by which parliamentarians from 16 Caribbean countries, 48 African countries and 15 Pacific countries sit together regularly with the aim of promoting human development and sustainable growth.
The future of the Cotonou agreement – people and planet at the centre for sustainable development
On 16 March, the Women Forum took place within the 37th Plenary session of the JPA. The discussion focused on “The trafficking of women and girls in EU and ACP countries”, raising a debate on the challenges related to sexual trafficking and prostitution for women and girls, in addition to the black market of organs. Julie Ward, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), highlighted the lack of policies for supporting those women and girls who face multiple discrimination, such as migrants or women and girls with disabilities; as well as the need for strengthening a rights-based approach and intersectionality in development policies and programmes.
On Sunday 17th, the Youth Conference focused on the risks of climate change for the younger generation, who will have to deal with the consequences of future natural disasters and the exhaustion of the planet resources.
In addition, CBM had a stand by which the parliamentarians from the different countries could establish a conversation on how to include persons with disabilities at national and local level. One of the main concerns raised was the prejudices towards persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, since they are the most excluded communities in the society. CBM also presented different publications with the objective of raising awareness and providing practical steps towards a disability-inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
What can the EU do for a post-Cotonou agreement that respects and promotes the rights of persons with disabilities
In order to provide a truly inclusive framework for the future of the Cotonou agreement, CBM recommends the EU and ACP countries to:
- Establish the UN CRPD as the guideline legal framework in the post-Cotonou agreement
- Ensure data collection which includes the recently adopted OECD marker on disability
- Provide budget allocation accordingly with the commitments adopted
- Reinforce expertise and awareness of EU delegations, governments and local authorities on disability inclusive development
- Count on the expertise and ensure meaningful and active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in decision-making processes
- Assure accessibility in new infrastructures and communication systems
- Fight against stereotypes and prejudices towards persons with disabilities
- Consider the many types of discrimination faced by women and girls with disabilities
CBM will continue to work in partnership with the EU and ACP countries, ensuring a direct communication with our local partners, in order to establish a truly inclusive and sustainable post-Cotonou agreement.