Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Can I take the opportunity to congratulate you on the many milestones that you have achieved; you have been a true champion for disabilities, and as an Australian I am very very proud of the achievements.
And to you and to your team the International Disability Alliance, thank you for co-hosting today.
Simon, thank you very much for your kind comments.
Colin said that we have to do our sightseeing while we are here.
We did our very short sightseeing this morning on a very brisk walk about 7 o'clock this morning, which I can tell you was rather chilly here in Berlin.
But it is a great pleasure and I am very delighted to be here today in the presence of so many committed people, drawn together by our sheer vision of a world that is more inclusive of people with disabilities.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge our hosts, The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and GIZ; The German Technical Aid Organisation, who have made it possible to come together here in Berlin, to advance our important work.
Australia is very pleased to be co-chairing the Global Action on Disability Network, alongside the International Disability Alliance, to whom sincere thanks must go, for its tireless efforts to coordinate a productive meeting.
The Global Action on Disability, or 'GLAD' Network, was born out of recognition that more needs to be done to realise the rights of people with disabilities – and that we can best achieve this by working together.
For development efforts to be effective, people with disabilities must be able to benefit from, and contribute to, these efforts on an equal basis with others.
As Minister for International Development and the Pacific, this is something I am very committed to.
All of us here today have heard the statistics and the stories, and we understand why this matters. The question is – how can we better work together and learn from each other to achieve the greatest change?
We recently passed a major milestone – in December last year the international community celebrated the tenth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability or CRPD.
This is an important reminder to reflect – not just how far we have come, but how far we still have to go to realise the rights of people with disabilities.
The CRPD – the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century – unequivocally frames the inclusion of people with disabilities as a fundamental issue of human rights.
Accordingly, our approach to disability-inclusive development is firmly based on human rights principles – such as non-discrimination and equality, participation and inclusion.
Australia is currently seeking – for the first time – a seat on the Human Rights Council for the 2018-20 term.
One of the pillars of our campaign is to promote strong national human rights institutions and a robust civil society.
Australia is a strong advocate for strengthening the capacity of national human rights institutions to promote and protect human rights.
Ideally, governments and civil society should work together to this end. Civil society organisations can be powerful agents for change.
A core part of our approach, right from the start, has been to support disabled people's organisations in developing countries, which provide opportunities for people with disabilities to speak for themselves.
Working with, and learning from, people with disabilities themselves, is critical to understanding how we can best address any barriers to full participation.
We value our close working relationship with the International Disability Alliance, who helped ensure that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development included the needs and aspirations of peoples with disability.
At the community level, we support the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund to provide, small grants to disabled people's organisations in developing countries, to advocate for their rights.
A strong and vibrant civil society is better able to lobby governments to ratify the CRPD and then, to hold them to account in implementing it.
In my Ministerial role, I have the pleasure of visiting our Indo-Pacific neighbours and most especially the Pacific on a regular basis.
During these visits, I take the opportunity to see first-hand a range of Australia's investments in developing cooperation.
For example, on a recent visit to the Pacific island country of Vanuatu, on one of the little islands off the main island, I had the opportunity to speak with people with disabilities about some of the challenges that they face and that are facing their communities, and their aspirations for the future.
While there, I spoke with partners from the Vanuatu Skills for Economic Growth Program, which has made great progress in consulting with and including people with disabilities in skills development.
A key factor in that program's success has been closely collaborating with people with disabilities and their representative organisations.
With our partners, Australia has helped to raise awareness of the skills development opportunities available in Vanuatu for people with disabilities, and we have actively sought their engagement.
Within just a few years, 2013 to 2015, the proportion of participants with disabilities doubled to around 9 per cent.
We estimate that more than half of the trainees with disabilities increased their income after participating in this skills development program.
This is development assistance at its best: working together with people with disabilities to build their skills and their opportunities for the future. It makes them more self-reliant.
Although still in its formative stages, GLAD has great potential to promote disability-inclusive development and humanitarian action.
Members have already made progress in deciding on three areas of initial focus – inclusive education, social protection and humanitarian action.
We know that equitable access to quality education and skills training, forms the foundation for inclusion in so many other facets of life. This holds true for people with disabilities.
We also know that in developing countries the vast majority of children with disabilities do not attend school. Education systems often do not accommodate the needs of all children.
Indeed in the Pacific, at times I actually see it on the most basic of ways without even disability access to the schools themselves. Too often, this means that children with disabilities cannot attend school and they cannot fully participate in school life.
And although, through Australia's aid program we continue to identify innovative ways to support our partner governments to give young people with disabilities an equal opportunity to obtain an education.
Together, we work to collect accurate data, train teachers, apply inclusive curriculum, build appropriate infrastructure and equipment, and encourage a supportive education community.
For example, in Fiji, we have been piloting a disability inclusive approach at a number of poor and remote primary schools to address the special access and learning needs of children with disabilities.
In addition to supporting enrolment of children with disabilities in demonstration schools, we enabled students to sit for national literacy and numeracy assessments and transition to secondary, vocational or other schools in 2016.
While technological breakthroughs are creating new opportunities, millions of individuals with disabilities are still left behind.
Australia is committed to identifying and applying new solutions. Together with USAID and World Vision, through the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development partnership, we have been providing funding to bring in a range of new education technology partners.
For example, we are funding a pilot project in India that provides students who are vision impaired with mother-tongue reading materials through Bookshare, a digital library of more than 500,000 accessible books.
The project has paired 30 braille stories with narrated Marathi stories, Marathi being the primary spoken language in the Maharashtra region. A weekly visit by a "Story Auntie" makes these stories come alive, while helping the children learn braille.
An exciting effort is also underway in Morocco to improve educational materials for children with hearing impairments – approximately 85 per cent of whom do not attend school.
Most teachers who work with this population do not have any special education training, nor are many fluent in local sign language. This deprives students of a language-rich environment that is so critical for academic development.
To assist teachers to develop inclusive educational materials, we are adapting software that allows users to access 3,000 Moroccan Sign Language graphics and video clips representing 5,500 words in Modern Standard Arabic with supporting graphics.
Now, this innovative software will significantly increase the amount, the type, and the quality of materials available to hearing-impaired students and their teachers.
All children, including those with disabilities, deserve the right to reach their full potential.
When given the tools, education, and resources to achieve literacy, children are better equipped and empowered to participate fully in their communities, and live a life of opportunity.
To incentivise even greater progress in this area, Australia, World Vision and USAID will be soon announcing a Sign Language and Literacy global prize seeking innovative, technology-based solutions to increase language and literacy outcomes for hearing impaired students. Please stay tuned.
GLAD's Australian representatives will keep you linked in, and will be encouraging you to promote the competition through your networks.
Also in all these initiatives to promote opportunity, we are also mindful that people with disabilities can be particularly vulnerable in different ways.
For example, in the Pacific we are developing a disaster preparedness and building resilience framework as part of the Pacific Island Forum work, and often when disasters hit – and the Pacific is one of the most disaster prone areas in the world – people with disabilities have to rely on family and friends literally so they are not left behind.
And so therefore as part of the work that we are going to do there, it is vitally important that as part of disaster preparedness we also incorporate access and assistance for people with disabilities, particularly when faced with disasters.
In addition, social protection is an important response to reduce poverty and support inclusive economic growth. Interventions such as cash and food transfers, providing an income-generating asset – livestock, cash-for-work schemes – can help unlock the economic potential of the poorest, providing pathways to employment and productive livelihoods, and more importantly, dignity.
Social protection is highly relevant for people with disabilities; it can provide the resources necessary to live, as I said, a life of dignity and facilitate access to opportunities. Access to social protection programs for people with disabilities is uneven in Australia's region, and there is movement in the right direction.
Just last year, Indonesia expanded its national conditional cash transfer program to include people with disabilities.
It is also timely to consider the role of GLAD in supporting humanitarian efforts that are more inclusive.
Last year, I was extremely pleased to represent Australia at the World Humanitarian Summit, and along with many of the partners represented here today, to endorse the Charter for Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action.
I am proud that Australia was so active in developing the Charter, which was fittingly described by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon as ground-breaking.
We are continuing to encourage its uptake and implementation, including supporting the development of globally-endorsed guidelines on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action.
To give effect to our commitments under the Charter, Australia's $220 million package of assistance in response to the Syrian humanitarian crisis – the latest of our contributions – is underpinned by a disability inclusive approach, including in our education and livelihood activities in Jordan and Lebanon.
And with the Women's Refugee Commission, we are continuing to build evidence of practical ways to advance the rights and dignity of refugees with disabilities, especially women and children.
Detailed discussions over the next couple of days will take forward a shared vision for advancing inclusion in these three areas of focus, and I look forward to hearing the outcomes of your deliberations.
I am honoured to join a dedicated group of people here today, determined that our development efforts will leave no one behind.
It is still early days for the GLAD Network.
GLAD provides a valuable platform to share knowledge, and learn from each other about the most effective approaches, what works and what does not.
I call on all of you, all of us together, to use this Network to amplify our common and united goal for maximum influence.
Whether we represent government, a UN agency, an International Financial institution, a foundation or a business, we all have a role to play.
I see great potential for us to promote stronger and more coordinated action on disability inclusive development through our combined efforts.
Can I thank you very much for your very kind attention.
Colin Allen (Chair of the International Disability Alliance and co-chair of the Global Action on Disability): I would really like to thank the Senator for demonstrating Australia's involvement and commitment to people with disabilities and disability movement. To have her here today is a huge honour and speaks volumes of the work that you have been doing and I think it is extraordinarily significant for persons with disabilities.
The Minister referred to the World Humanitarian Summit, I was actually handed the honour of being in the same room with her, and we were in opposite seatings so we were looking directly at each other, and so it is now quite an honour to have her sitting alongside me today.
And I think Australia was one of the first governments around the world to sign off on the Charter of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action, so thank you very much.
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