DECEMBER 11, 2009, NAIROBI, KENYA – The East Africa Community member states have pledged their commitment on matters dealing with persons with disabilities in the region. The common goal was reached at a just concluded first of its kind meeting in Kampala, Uganda that brought together experts on People with Disabilities. According to the EAC secretariat, the meeting was convened as a forerunner to the conference on Persons with Disabilities scheduled for February 8 and9, 2010 in Kampala, Uganda.
At the meeting, the EAC was hailed for organizing the first ever meeting of people with disabilities in the EAC calendar activities. “This is a clear indication of the common goal of a health EAC and promoting the welfare of People with Disabilities in the region,” said EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Mr. Jean Claude Nsengiyumva. Mr. Nsengiyumva reiterated that one of the four components which form the priority areas of cooperation among the Partner States is in the area of Social Protection, especially for vulnerable groups including PWDs.
She urged the participants to share information and experiences about their countries’ efforts to draft laws, policies and programmes on disability, the gaps, challenges and process of including disability in the MDGs, together with the current social protection initiatives in the Partner States. The Chairperson for the EALA General Purpose Committee, Hon. Lydia Wanyoto Mutende, MP, urged for the incorporation of PWDs in the different phases of the entire EAC integration process. She pointed out that the EAC secretariat in collaboration with EALA, was ready to create synergies to advance the cause of the PWDs at all levels of Government in all the Partner States. In this context, Hon. Wanyoto affirmed that every East African had space and a role to play in the regional integration process.
The EAC Principal Gender and Community Development Officer, Mrs. Perpetue Miganda said the meeting had been convened to put in place mechanisms for the implementation of the Provisions of Article 120(c) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. She said the article expresses the Partner States commitment to closely cooperate in the field of “social welfare with respect to among others; the development and adoption of a common approach towards disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including children, the youth, the elderly and PWDs through rehabilitation and provision of among others, foster homes heath care, education and training.” She further pointed out that all the EAC Partner States signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of PWDs and its optional Protocol, which places an obligation on these States to ensure changes in legislation, policies and programmes to promote the rights of PWDs. She informed the participants that formulation of an EAC Policy on PWDs was a priority initiative to be undertaken before the end of 2010.
In the same vein the EAC Ministers responsible for Social Development in their recent meeting of October 2009, urged Partner States to harmonize and mainstream vulnerable groups in issues of development policies, strategies and plans. The First Meeting of Experts provided a forum for delegates from Partner States’ institutions and organizations dealing with PWDs to analyze their national legislations, policies and the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their respective countries. Delegates also identified the gaps, challenges and the processes of including Disability in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the current social protection initiatives in the Partner States.
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