The United Nations Theme Group on Disability met to discuss ways to further advance inclusion of persons with disabilities in China

On 27 August 2021, the United Nations Theme Group on Disability (UNTGD) convened the second group-wide meeting at the UN Compound in China. The meeting was attended by over 40 members online and offline, representing China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), embassies, private sector, social enterprises, and UN agencies.

Prof. Shahbaz Khan, Director and Representative of UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office, and Chair of the UNTGD opened the meeting. He updated on the work of TGD Secretariat over the past few months focusing on the implementation of the UN Disability Strategy and Action Plans 2021-2025. Representing the Secretariat, Ms. Qingyi Zeng, National Professional Officer at UNESCO Beijing shared that among the 29 action points on disability inclusion concerning programming, monitoring, evaluation, operation, as well as communications within the UN System in China, five have been completed and ten are underway, including the accessibility assessment of UN premises in China undertaken with the kind support by the Institute of Accessibility Development at Tsinghua University. UN Communication Officers will be trained on inclusiveness and the fair and accurate portrayal of persons with disabilities under a UNESCO led project.

 

A draft UNTGD Position Paper was presented at the meeting for consultation with the disability stakeholders. The Position Paper contains the latest situation analysis, needs assessment, initiatives and recommendations on promoting equal rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities. It will serve as an open reference document to generate support and mobilize partnership and resources for joint actions. One proposed area for joint action was the coalition of disability-inclusive cities. The proposal was highly welcomed by members of the TGD as a timely initiative, taking momentum of the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2022. It was decided to take this initiative forward with close collaboration among key members of the TGD.

 

During a special sharing session, Ms. Bin Xu, Co-Director of Common Language, a Beijing-based NGO on LGBTI rights and gender equality, introduced a publication titled Making Yourself Heard/Getting Your Message Across: A Handbook for Civil Society Organizations. The Handbook was developed as part of a UNESCO project, aiming to promote better understanding of the media agenda among CSOs, and to inspire effective advocacy strategies for marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities. The project empowered a number of CSOs, who carried out impactful media campaigns advocating the rights of marginalized groups.

One success case was a media campaign – Stories of women with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Beijing Enable Sister Center (BEST), a small grassroots organization for women with disabilities. Representing BEST, Ms. Yujiao Peng and Ms. Meihao Pan shared that over 300 women with disabilities participated in discussions inspired by the storytelling. The campaign generated over 10,000 views from the community and general public.

Figure 2 Ms. Yujiao Peng and Ms. Meihao Pan, together with Prof. Shahbaz Khan at the UNTGD meeting

During the meeting, participants from different sectors also shared the activities and initiatives led by their respective organization, ranging from advocacy campaigns to the development of training materials, and from increasing the participation level of persons with disabilities to considering the disability perspective in project design.

 

In closing the meeting, Prof. Khan expressed gratitude to the UNTGD members for their dedicated efforts and called for further cooperation among stakeholders to advance the rights of persons with disability and to make the environment more disability-inclusive.

 

The UN Theme Group on Disability (UNTGD) was established in 2015 as a unique, comprehensive, multi-stakeholder platform for dialogue and advocacy on the needs and rights of persons with disabilities in China. Members of the UNTGD include UN agencies, CDPF, OPDs, CSOs, international and local NGOs, embassies/multilateral and bilateral organizations, and private sector partners.

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