Liberia : Special Feature Report on the International Disability Seminar “Making Equal Participation in Development A Reality in Liberia”, Monrovia, February 22-24, 2012

The National Commission on Disabilities, the Government autonomous body with the mandate to cater for persons with disabilities in Liberia in collaboration with the National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD), Italian Association Amici di Raoul Follereau (AIFO), Handicap International (HI) and The carter Center organized a 3-day International Seminar on Disability in Liberia under the Theme “Making Equal Participation in Development A Reality in Liberia” from 22nd to 24th, February 2012.

The purpose of the Seminar was to discuss the issues concerning the welfare of persons with disabilities in the overall development of Liberia. Key International speakers from Europe and Africa participated including
-  Hon. Margaret Baba Diri, a female with disability (visual impairment) and a long-serving member of the Ugandan Parliament (Woman Representative, Koboko District, delivered a Paper entitled “ Constraints and Opportunities for Women with Disabilities in Uganda” ;
-  Hon. Leone-Julius Cuffie, Sierra Leone Member of Parliament, with physical disability, who also took part presented a Paper on : “Decentralization : How to ensure participation of PwDs in the Decision-Making Process”
-  and Mr. Giampiero Griffo, Disabled People International-Italy delivered a presentation on “Strengthening International and Regional Networks”.
Other dignitaries who graced the occasion were the head of the EU Delegation in Liberia Ambassador Attillio Pacifici that open the seminar, present also were Government officials, civil society organizations’ representatives, PwDs and DPOs representatives from all over the Country. The Seminar brought together over 100 participants. At the close of the Seminar a Resolution was adopted to be presented to the presidency and institutions of Liberia.

The workshop recommends the following propositions :

- Ministry of Foreign Affairs should immediately finalize the process of ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, 2006) which the Liberian Parliament duly ratified in September 2008, through the official communication of the ratification act to the UN Head Quarters in New York.
- Ministry of Health & Social Welfare should assess the needs of persons with disabilities and review the National Health and Social Welfare Policy and Plan 2011-2021 in order to provide essential medical, rehabilitation and habilitation services through Community Based Rehabilitation approaches and strategies.
- Ministry of Education should review the Educational Reform Act (August 2011) to establish an Inclusive Education Bureau and to amend Article 4.4.1, C), iv, which states that “A school may exempt a child entirely, partially or conditionally from free and compulsory school attendance if it is in the best interest of the child, especially those with disabilities”.
- Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs, within the operational framework of the Poverty Reduction Strategy II, should appoint a steering committee to develop a national strategy for the implementation of the UNCRPD with the support of concerned institutions, civil society organizations, DPOs, UN agencies and other international partners working on this issue in Liberia.
- Ministry of Labour should review the Labour law to allow reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities and to set up a permanent desk to deal with disability issues with the participation of representatives of MoHSW, MoE, NCD and NUOD.
- Ministry of Gender and Development must strengthen the capacity of the County Gender Officers to address issues related to women and children with disabilities at national and local level.
- Independent National Human Rights Commission should liaise with the Ministry of Foreign affair to ensure the full ratification of the UNCRPD and with the NCD and Ministry of Planning & Economic Affairs to ensure that a national plan for the implementation of the UNCRPD is identified and put in action.

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