Partnerships between governments, international organisations, the private sector and civil society are vital to advance human rights and promote prosperity and stability in developing countries.

The Global Action on Disability network, known as the GLAD network, is an excellent example of a new international partnership that aims to do just that.

The network brings together bilateral governments, multilateral agencies, foundations and private sector organisations, in collaboration with Disabled People's Organisations and partner governments, to advance the rights of people with disabilities and ensure their full participation in international development and humanitarian action.

Australia, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, currently co-chairs the GLAD network alongside the International Disability Alliance.  This role recognises the important work of the Australian Government in advocating for, and empowering, people with disabilities.

During my visit to Europe last week, I had the great pleasure to speak at the network's annual meeting in Berlin.

Representatives from over 32 organisations came together to identify key actions to advance inclusive education, social protection and humanitarian action for those with disabilities in developing countries.  They also agreed to work together to prioritise the collection and analysis of data to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind in development efforts.

Minister Fierravanti-Wells (centre) with Annette Seidel (left), representative from BMZ (Government of Germany), Colin Allen (right), Chair of the International Disability Alliance and President of the World Federation of the Deaf, and Dinah Radtke (front row, seated), Vice-Chair of the Disabled People's International at the GLAD Network meeting in Berlin.

At the meeting, I highlighted Australia's clear commitment to a disability inclusive development approach across our aid program.  A commitment that will see more of our aid investments including people with disabilities in their design and implementation, as well as ensuring they benefit from these investments.

Minister Fierravanti-Wells (third from right) co-chairing the GLAD Network meeting in Berlin.

An estimated one billion people across the world have a disability.  This equates to 1 in 7 people.  A large majority – around 80 per cent – are living in developing countries.

People with disabilities and their families are consistently among the poorest in their communities.  Not just in economic terms, but also poorer in terms of access to health care, education, employment, and many other areas of life.

Through Australia's aid investments in the region, we are advancing the rights of people with disabilities, and giving them the opportunity to lead full, independent and economically productive lives.

Whether it is through our skills for economic growth training in Vanuatu, education and health programs in Timor-Leste, or providing prosthetic and orthotic devices to enhance the health, mobility and people with disabilities in Samoa, we are making a difference.

Along with our investments in the region, we will also continue to support international and regional programs to improve disability data collection and analysis.  It is only with this information that policies and programs can effectively assist those with disabilities.

Minister Fierravanti-Wells delivering the key note address to GLAD Network members.

This will also be key to monitoring progress against the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has specific targets for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Through its focus on coordination and information sharing, the GLAD network has an important role to play in helping transform the lives of people with disabilities in developing countries.

Australia is proud to have a leadership role in the GLAD network and to be working with such a committed group of partners.

Minister Fierravanti-Wells (fourth from left) co-chairing the GLAD Network meeting in Berlin.

By harnessing the knowledge and lessons of all GLAD network partners, and encouraging more partners to join us in this work, the network will support people with disabilities to realise their rights, and be active participants in development.

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