¡ESPERANZA! Closing the Gap: The Role of the Family in Supporting Persons with Disabilities

On the 49th Commission on Social Development- February 16, 2011

The World Youth Alliance recognizes the critical need to highlight the dignity of people living with disabilities, and to find ways to reduce the conditions of poverty associated with disability. In valuing and protecting the most vulnerable, societies are built up in solidarity, a vital component of development. We recognize that the family is the most effective force for the support of persons with disabilities, and that this in turn enhances intergenerational. solidarity. Thus the family is the primary agent of change in relieving the effects of poverty on the most vulnerable in our world, and promoting authentic, sustainable development .

Persons with disabilities suffer isolation and social exclusion because of stigma, discrimination, myths, misconceptions and ignorance. While the risk of impairment is much greater for persons living in conditions of poverty, disability is likely to make people poorer because of limited opportunities and discrimination. (1) The family is crucial to the care of persons with disabilities as it provides consistent social inclusion and natural support. As the primary school of humanity, the family is the foremost and essential place where persons with disabilities are cared for and learn how to care. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled persons recognizes the important resources for rehabilitation which exist in the families of disabled persons and calls for every effort to be made to keep families together, and to enable the disabled to live in their own communities. (2) The family is essential for the integral development of persons with disabilities and thus critical to combating poverty.

On a broader level, the World Youth Alliance recognizes the importance to society of respecting the dignity of all persons with disabilities. It is the visible signs of need, suffering and injustice that expose the universal human condition of vulnerability, and reveal a common identity between persons. Societies which do not protect the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family demonstrate their own incapacity to affirm the dignity of the person. The defense and protection of the most vulnerable is essential for building lasting solidarity and for providing the foundation for sustainable development of a free, just, and peaceful world.

There is an urgent need to close the gap between policy and practice by mainstreaming the perspective of persons with disabilities in realizing the Millennium Development Goals. Efforts to mainstream disability must be synonymous with efforts to mainstream support for the family. As called for by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “persons with disabilities and their family members should receive the necessary protection and assistance to enable families to contribute towards the full and equal enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities.”(3) It is only by promoting the family as the nucleus of care, development and solidarity that the international community can address the integrated problem of disability, social exclusion and poverty at its very roots.

The World Youth Alliance commends the positive support given to persons with disabilities in Resolution 2010/13:

Acknowledging the fact that the majority of the 690 million persons with disabilities in the world live in conditions of poverty, and in this regard recognizing the critical need to address the negative impact of poverty on persons with disabilities(PP5ECOSOC Res. 2010/13)

Noting that persons with disabilities make up an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s population, of whom 80 per cent live in developing countries, and recognizing the importance of international cooperation and its promotion in support of national efforts, in particular for developing countries (PP6ECOSOC Res. 2010/13)

Convinced that addressing the profound social, cultural and economic disadvantage experienced by many persons with disabilities, and that promoting the use of universal design as appropriate, as well as the progressive removal of barriers to their full and effective participation in all aspects of development and promoting their economic, social and cultural rights, will further the equalization of opportunities and contribute to the realization of a “society for all” in the twenty-first century(PP7 ECOSOC Res. 2010/13)

Calls upon Member States to enable persons with disabilities to participate as agents and beneficiaries of development, in particular in all efforts aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals, by ensuring that programmes and policies, namely those aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development, are inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities(OP3 ECOSOC Res. 2010/13)

Recognizes the need to promote participation, consultation, inclusion and integration of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in mainstreaming disability in the development agenda(OP5 ECOSOC Res. 2010/13)