Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Can I start by thanking you Colin for your introduction and can I congratulate you for another great year. On behalf of the Australian Government, thank you for all your hard work, your commitment and leadership. You really do Australia very, very proud.
I am delighted to be at this GLAD Network meeting for the second consecutive year.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge our hosts, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Abilis Foundation, who have made it possible for the GLAD Network to come here in Helsinki.
In particular, I acknowledge the presence of Mr Kai Mykkänen, Finland’s Minister for Trade and Development – can I say, Minister, thank you. We very much appreciated the opportunity for us to have a discussion, but most importantly all the governments’ commitment to this very, very important objective of leaving no one behind. So thank you, Minister.
I would also like to acknowledge Lord Bates, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State at the Department for International Development, who was unable to attend here today, due unfortunately to Parliamentary business, and so he wasn’t able to join us here today.
I would also like to express our sincere thanks to the International Disability Alliance, and all the work – the tireless work – that you do.
I would like to thank everybody for being here today and welcome you to this very, very important GLAD meeting.
I will leave it to Colin [Allen] to announce our newest members and simply note that the growth of the Network since Berlin demonstrates increasing global recognition of the value of GLAD.
This growth is welcomed as we strive collectively for a more inclusive world.
Today, around one billion people live with a disability around the world.
Many face significant barriers to their full inclusion in society.
In developing countries and in humanitarian emergencies, they are often the first to be left behind.
To achieve the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind, and to deliver fully effective and truly fair development and humanitarian action, 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 which I, and the Australian government, is very committed to.
In November of last year, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released Australia’s first Foreign Policy White Paper in 14 years.
Our White Paper is grounded in our national foundations of freedom, equality, and the rule of law and mutual respect.
It clearly affirms that disability, like gender equality, are crosscutting priorities for Australia’s international engagement on human rights, development assistance and humanitarian action.
It is important we hold ourselves to account for our commitments, which is why the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been independently evaluating the effectiveness of our international engagement on disability.
You will hear more about these findings later this morning.
Importantly, they demonstrate the challenge of mainstreaming disability into aid programs and the importance of working with and influencing others.
This is why GLAD is important to us – it promotes disability inclusive development and humanitarian action.
Together, through our collective action and advocacy, we can do more than if we just worked on our own.
Since the 2017 Berlin Network meeting, our joint advocacy has contributed to important achievements for disability inclusion.
Joint advocacy by GLAD members has resulted in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs explicitly committing to disability-inclusion in its new strategic plan.
Similar advocacy resulted in a commitment by the World Food Program to develop guidelines to ensure that food assistance reaches people with disabilities.
Consistent messaging led by the United Kingdom has paved the way for the likely introduction this year of a disability marker by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.
In November last year, Australia was pleased to host the 17th Annual Meeting of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics in Sydney.
The meeting coincided with a landmark agreement between the Washington Group and the United Nations Statistics Division on disaggregating data by disability status to monitor implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals.
This agreement was possible, in part, by the strong advocacy of GLAD members.
Indeed, I recall our collective agreement on this issue at the GLAD meeting in Berlin last year.
While we deserve some credit for these achievements, there is still much more to do and I am confident that we are on the right track.
During this week’s meeting, we will focus on some of the key sectors where we have the greatest potential to improve outcomes for people with a disability: education, social protection and humanitarian action.
Achieving universal education is one of the most effective ways to ensure broad-based opportunities and development, including for people with disabilities.
In December 2016, during a visit to Vanuatu, the Disability-Inclusive Development Fund support for the Vanuatu Skills for Economic Growth Program was launched.
This program has strengthened disability inclusion across economic priority areas including tourism, handicrafts and agribusiness.
The proportion of participants with disabilities has risen to around nine per cent – and half the trainees with disabilities increased their income after participating in the program.
Nelly Caleb, from the Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association, will be discussing this example – just one small example – in more detail in the next session, which demonstrates what can be done. So Nelly, we look forward to hearing from you.
Since our meeting in 2017, we have continued discussions with the Global Partnership for Education.
Other GLAD members have joined in, and together we have found the partnership to be very receptive to working with GLAD to make this initiative more inclusive of children with disabilities.
Social protection is also essential for people with disabilities and I am pleased it is a key theme of this year’s meeting.
It can also help us to achieve SDG 1, no poverty.
It enables people to withstand and bounce back from shocks and has important linkages to human capital building.
Australia has been a frontrunner in responding to the imperative of more and better data on the experiences and barriers people with disabilities face in accessing and benefitting from social protection schemes.
We have funded, for example, research in Nepal and Vietnam on good practice in disability-inclusive social protection systems that will have application across the Indo-Pacific region.
More broadly, we have been actively working with other GLAD members to develop a joint statement on disability-inclusive social protection that will help guide future work in this space.
I am looking forward to seeing the joint statement endorsed by GLAD here this week in Helsinki.
It is also timely to acknowledge the role of GLAD in supporting disability-inclusive humanitarian action, the third theme of this week.
We know that disasters and conflict disproportionately affect people with disability and can increase the prevalence of disability. And we know, from those of you who are here from the Indo-Pacific region, seven of the ten most disaster-prone countries in the world are in our region.
That is why Australia continues to advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all humanitarian action, including through co-chairing of the GLAD Humanitarian Action Working Group, which promotes the Charter for Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action.
Our commitment to acting on the principles of the Charter is evident in the disability-inclusive approach that underpins our $100 million package of assistance in response, for example, to the Iraq humanitarian crisis.
2018 will be an important year for us to pursue the goal that global development and humanitarian work includes people with disabilities.
One of the key events will be the Global Disability Summit being hosted by the United Kingdom in July, which I hope to attend. I am sure there will be others here who will be also attending.
This will be an important opportunity to galvanise global efforts to address disability inclusion in the poorest countries in the world and act as the starting point for major change on this neglected issue.
I hope we can all share best practice and evidence from across the world at this event to ensure people with disabilities are central to the planning and delivery of development.
In 2018, it probably comes as no surprise to realise that women and girls with disabilities are particularly disadvantaged, including through an evident lack of leadership opportunities.
The United Nations Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is (with only one woman in a committee of 18) the most gender imbalanced of UN committees.
I am therefore pleased that Australia will be nominating an Australian woman with a disability, a distinguished Australian – Rosemary Kayess – as our candidate to the CRPD Committee for the 2019-22 term.
She is an internationally respected lawyer specialising in discrimination and human rights law.
I am hopeful Rosemary and other qualified women will be elected to this important international treaty body in June.
I am also looking forward to the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council, on which Australia takes a seat this year for the first time.
We intend to work closely with other Council members to support civil society to advance human rights, and disability rights in particular, at home and around the globe.
Australia will bring a unique Indo-Pacific perspective to our term.
One of our goals will be to amplify the voices of our Pacific neighbours during our three-year term on the Council.
This week’s Network meeting is an opportunity for us to ensure our efforts target achieving our goals.
I wish you success here in Helsinki and encourage everybody to participate fully, openly and productively in these discussions.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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