18 February 2013 Ramallah: National efforts to recognize and protect the rights of disabled persons received strong endorsement from the Palestinian government in Ramallah today, during a seminar sponsored by Diakonia (Sweden)/NAD (Norwegian Association of the Disabled) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in the occupied Palestinian territories to mainstream disability.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad opened the meeting, along with WHO head of office Tony Laurance, and Diakonia/NAD Director Cecilia Angelid. The seminar was conducted by a WHO-Geneva technical expert on disability rights. Chapal Khasnabis, and was attended by more than 50 government officials and others.
Shatha Abu Srour and Bashar Naser, both with disabilities, gave testimonials about how their lives are affected by the lack of access to services and their expectations that government can lead in changing the situation in Palestine.
Minister of Social Affairs Majida Masri, whose ministry has been the shepherd for these efforts, made a brief presentation to the group explaining the National Strategic Framework for Disability.
Participants included high level representatives from the ministries of Social Affairs, Education, Higher Education, Health, Labor, Local Government, Justice and Transportation, along with members of the Higher Council for Disability, and representatives of the Civil Service Bureau, and the Independent Commission for Human Rights.
The Palestinian Disability Law was ratified in 1999, but practical implementation has stalled. National efforts to fully recognize disability rights have accelerated since 2011, with the activation of the Higher Council for Disability and the recent launching of the National Disability Strategy on mainstreaming disability.
In his presentation, WHO technical expert Khasnabis focused on the importance of recognizing human rights standards in government policies and procedures, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and pointed out the relevance of international legal standards to the work of specific ministries and sectors.
He suggested the steps needed for mainstreaming disability, including: legal review of policies and procedures, review of access to services and information, checklists that must be adhered to when the ministries are implementing new programs; and that the right-holders participate in program monitoring, evaluation, and auditing.
The prevalence rate of disability depends on whether using a narrow or wider definition, and ranges in Palestine from 2.7% (114,000 persons) to 7% (300,000 persons), according to a survey carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2011.
For more information, contact:
Ghada Harami Diakonia/NAD, mobile: 0545432099
Yousef Muhaisen, WHO, mobile: 0547179019