The Parliamentarian 2021 Issue Four: Commonwealth Parliaments supporting people with disabilities

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Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Stephen Twigg

Disability is a priority cross-cutting theme in the CPA’s new Strategic Plan adopted earlier this year to cover the period between 2022 and 2025. I look forward to working with all our CPA Branches, our CPA Regions and the Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD) network to do all we can to promote inclusion for persons with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth. Our work in this area has three strands: • Supporting and empowering Parliamentarians with disabilities and parliamentary staff with disabilities in their work. • Providing practical assistance and advice to all CPA Branches so that they follow the best inclusive practice in their Legislatures. • Working in partnership with others to support the empowerment of persons with disabilities in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. CPwD’s work is overseen by nine Regional Champions. In the last edition of The Parliamentarian, I thanked Kevin Murphy from Nova Scotia for his work as the first Chair of CPwD and I took the opportunity to congratulate Hon. Dennitah Ghati MP from Kenya who is now the CPwD Chair. In October, I was delighted to join (albeit virtually) the CPwD Africa Regional Conference held in Kenya. It was an excellent event from which I am sure other CPA Regions will learn as we work together to focus on disability rights. In February 2022, the Governments of Norway and Ghana will join the International Disability Alliance as co-hosts of the second Global Disability Summit. The Summit is an important opportunity to build upon the outcomes of the first Summit held in London in 2018. Of course, since then we have had the COVID-19 pandemic which has served to underline and reinforce the existing patterns of inequality and exclusion affecting persons with disabilities throughout the world. The vision set out in the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has at its heart the principle of ‘leaving no-one behind’. We know that persons with disabilities are often the most likely to be left behind when it comes to key issues like poverty, access to quality education and the opportunity to participate fully in society. The CPA has a responsibility and an opportunity to help equip our Members with the support needed to play their part in overcoming the various barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities whether that is in Parliaments, in wider society or in the economy. Disability features in several of the SDGs. Goal 4 concerns 336 | The Parliamentarian | 2021: Issue Four | 100 years of publishing

access to high quality education. We know that children and young people with disabilities face multiple challenges in education systems throughout the world. The task of overcoming these barriers has become even harder because of the impact of school and college closures associated with the COVID19 pandemic. As Hon. Dennitah Ghati wrote in a piece for the International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNEd) earlier this year, “As an MP representing Persons with Disabilities in the National Assembly [of Kenya], I have seen first-hand how the pandemic has widened inequalities for children with disabilities. What governments do now will be critical to ensuring that children with disabilities do not fall even further behind.” There are similar commitments to tackle disability issues in Goals 8, 10, 11 and 17 covering vital matters including access to full and productive employment and decent work; addressing inequalities both between and within countries; the importance of accessible, inclusive cities and human settlements and the vital role played by the effective use of data. The CPA is exploring some of the ways in which we can work in partnership with others to promote disability inclusion. We are particularly keen to work with organisations like the Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum so that the concerns and priorities of persons with disabilities are reflected and prioritised fully in our work. Additionally, we are exploring a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on disability inclusion. Disability will feature prominently in the CPA’s work in 2022 – and beyond. I have written previously in The Parliamentarian about some of the innovative ways in which CPA Members have adapted to the impact of restrictions arising from the pandemic. Technology has proved a powerful tool for inclusion, innovation and communication. I am encouraged by the significant numbers of both Parliamentarians and staff who have already signed up to our new online CPA Parliamentary Academy ( parliamentary-academy). In the absence of a physical Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) in 2020 and 2021 we have hosted a wide variety of CPC webinars bringing people together across multiple time zones. We have now held our CPA Executive Committee successfully online three times and we have had two superb

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