A New Year, and New Opportunities to Progress Disability Rights: Priorities for 2016

**Nota: ita bele mós lee istoria ne’e iha lian Tetun iha RHTO nia Blog.

Last year RHTO worked hard to raise awareness about disability rights, and link people with disability to support and services. In 2016, RHTO wants all development partners to be doing their part and contributing to inclusive development.

At the moment, the basic needs of people with disabilities are not being met. The 2010 Census found that 72% of people with disability had never attended school. And recent interviews conducted by RHTO showed that 65% of respondents did not have access to an independent livelihood. To change this situation, development programs and policies need to take specific action to include people with disability.

We think there are four key steps that will help Timor do better:

  1. COMMIT to better data collection

  2. APPROVE the Action Plan

  3. RATIFY the CRPD

  4. ENSURE participation in all areas of life

First is data collection. The Government of Timor-Leste needs to make policy and program decisions which are based on a realistic picture of disability across the country. Disability should not be a side-line issue when it comes to Timor’s development. But, one challenge we face is that data collection does not show the real story of disability. The 2010 Census found that 4.6 per cent of the population have a disability. But, we know this is an under-estimation. International evidence from the World Bank and World Health Organisation says prevalence rates should be around 15 per cent. In Timor-Leste, with high malnutrition and history of conflict it could even be higher. Using this 15 per cent figure, we can estimate there are more than 175,000 citizens with disability in Timor. This is a large group of people, and to achieve inclusive development, these people cannot be forgotten.

Second, an Action Plan for disability rights has been drafted but is waiting for approval. If the Council of Ministers approved this plan, it would require key government ministries and Secretaries of State to take concrete action, not just make empty promises.

Photo: RHTO Staff, Members and community celebrating the construction of a ramp and accessible water point.

Thirdly, ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would create extra incentives for Government to be doing more. Five years ago in 2011, the Government of Timor-Leste told the United Nations Human Rights Committee that they would ratify the CRPD as soon as possible. But they still haven't ratified. This year, the Government has to present an update to the Human Rights Committee about what has happened since 2011. RHTO thinks that the time is right to ratify now, and show the UN that the Government has taken this important step. And, as an extra bonus, once a country ratifies the CRPD, they can access technical and financial support from the UN to help implement it.

The fourth step, and the most important one, is that all development partners in Timor-Leste need to ensure participation for people with disability across all areas of life.

Together, these four actions, which we are calling the “CARE” approach, will help lead to empowerment for people with disability, and an inclusive society for all people.

You can add your voices to those of RHTO and the disability sector, and call on the Government, NGOs and development partners to make 2016 a year of progress towards an inclusive society for all!

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