UN joins Palestinian ministries in training for mainstreaming disability rights, May 2014

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8 May 2014, Ramallah – WHO facilitated three introductory workshops for mainstreaming disability rights in Palestinian ministries and United Nations (UN) agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory during April 2014. More than 60 people representing five ministries and six UN agencies participated. The workshops sensitized staff to the social reality of disability, and relevant rights and legal obligations, to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected in all policies, programmes and practices at government level. The workshops were the first activities of a joint UN project launched in January 2014 to mainstream disability rights within UN agencies and Palestinian ministries.

The UN project joins the efforts of WHO together with the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), as coordinator. The project is supported by a special UN fund, the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD). The proposal from Palestine was one of only eight joint UN proposals selected globally.

Dr Pascal Granier, international expert on the International Classification of Function (ICF), and Ms Ola Abu Alghaib, a regional expert on disability policies, conducted the first three-day workshop, on April 6–8 2014, for ministry staff working in the disability field, to introduce the ICF, the WHO framework for assessing health and disability. Participants later expressed the need to upgrade the inadequate, medical-based, disability assessment system in Palestine with a more comprehensive system that could be more easily used by other sectors to mainstream persons with disability into government services.

Two workshops followed, conducted by Ms Abu Alghaib, on April 13–14 2014 for ministries and on April 15–16 2014 for UN staff, to raise awareness about the problems confronted by persons of disability in the environment, and to provide guiding principles around disability-inclusive development and its cross-cutting nature, especially in policy-making processes and in designing development programmes. The workshop attendees also learnt practical steps for improving attitudes and social interactions, and for adapting the physical environment to accommodate people with special needs.

Coincidentally, on 2 April 2014, the State of Palestine deposited instruments of accession with the Secretary-General of the UN to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in addition to other major international treaties, which commits the Palestinian government to comply with international human rights law.