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Mar 30, 2022 / 23:02

Leave no persons behind, with or without disabilities

UNDP Vietnam is proud to walk the talk having persons with disabilities in its diverse staff.

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (March 30, 2007-March 30, 2022), The Hanoi Times has the honor of introducing some reflections on this issue by Patrick Haverman, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Vietnam.

In 2017 when serving in China, I wrote a blog post with this title; today, more than four years later, I repeated these words as Vietnam celebrates 15 years since the country signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In both countries, progress has been made, and more is needed.

I am proud that in UNDP Vietnam, we walk the talk – among our diverse staff, we have persons with disabilities. The Green One UN House, our shared office, is adjusted and accessible for persons with different kinds of physical disabilities.

 From left: Vice Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Van Hoi; Chairperson of Ha Noi's Association of People with Disabilities Duong Thi Van; UNDP Disability Rights Officer Dao Thu Huong; and UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Patrick Haverman. Photo: UNDP

Beyond UNDP, despite commitments and effort, inequality remains a huge problem in the world. Covid-19 has presented a major set-back: a 2021 UNDP-supported survey found that persons with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted. Some 74% of respondents had their work hours reduced by up to four weeks per month, which is almost 1.5 times higher than those reporting their work hours reduced (49%) in our first Rapid Assessment conducted in April 2020; The number of respondents who had their income under only VND2 million (US$87) in August 2021 was also 16% higher than that before January 2020. It is understandable that savings cannot sustain their life as stated by 33% of the respondents this year. UNDP recently did a rapid impact assessment and an assessment of the 2nd support package of the Government, finding that the quickest way to deliver support is to provide an immediate cash benefit to specific groups, including people with disabilities.

We know that 2021 has been an extremely difficult year for the people of Vietnam, so we must redouble our efforts to address the underlying inequalities that mean persons with disabilities are so severely affected.

From all over Vietnam, organizations of and representing 6.2 million persons with disabilities (7% of the population) shared their expertise and voiced their views on how we can move forward. The Government of Vietnam is committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities can fully participate in society and equally enjoy their fundamental rights. The Government enacted the Law on Persons with Disabilities in 2010, ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2015, and issued Decision 1100/QD-TTg approving the National Plan to implement the CRPD and other guiding documents in 2016. Even so, there is room for improvement and UNDP, together with the National Council on Disability, Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and persons with disabilities, is working on consolidated input for the revision of the Law on Persons with Disabilities.

However, a law is only as strong as its enforcement. The efforts of the UN, therefore, also focus on the implementation of the law and the implications for a province, municipality, company or individual if they do not apply it. Where are the carrots and the sticks to make sure, not just that the law is enforced, but that implementation leads to progress, for example in access to justice, employment, and access to information?

In UNDP we follow the slogan of the movement of persons with disabilities: “Nothing about us without us.” Experience has shown us that when persons with disabilities are not able to participate in making and implementing policies, those seeking to take decisions on their behalf cannot do so successfully.

Crucially, persons with disabilities should not only be engaged in disability-focused policies. Their participation and needs should be mainstreamed into all national development policies. As UNDP, we strongly support persons with disabilities to realize their full potential to contribute to the national socio-economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

I hope that in another four years I can write a blog describing how as a world we have made a leap forward, definitively dealt with the Covid crisis, drastically reduced inequality, advanced on the path to zero emissions and ensured that persons with disabilities are leaders in our efforts toward sustainable development, not just beneficiaries. Every difficult journey starts with the first step. To make that vision a reality, a successful revision of the disability law would be a good one!