One out of every seven people in the world has a disability, yet citizens with disabilities remain under-represented in political and public life. Participation of persons with disabilities in government institutions, public policy, and legislation provides the basis for promoting equality in all aspects of society by breaking down social stigmas and increasing accountability. Active engagement in elections can lead to tangible policy changes on issues such as inclusive education and accessible transportation. Research has shown that public pressure can create strong incentives for elected politicians to deliver public services and develop social protection policies that benefit traditionally marginalized communities, such as persons with disabilities. With the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and economic instability disproportionately impacting persons with disabilities, having a voice in governance is crucial.
- Support meaningful engagement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in democracy, governance, and public policy.
- Promote access to voting, political participation, and civic engagement locally and globally.
- Mainstream disability rights across all areas of public policy.
Disability Rights Cohort Structure
The cohort will be structured as follows:
The general group of the cohort includes all CSOs, governments, international organizations, private sector partners, and other types of organizations who wish to advance the goals of the Cohort by making at least one commitment that contributes toward disability-inclusive democracy.
The core group of the cohort comprises those organizations that wish to involve themselves more closely to form an advisory committee of the Cohort. Organizations involved in the âcoreâ group commit themselves to implementing at least one event or activity that contributes toward disability-inclusive democracy.
Finally, the leadership group of the cohort consists of Australiaâs Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). DFAT and IFES commit to coordinating the cohort and funding, implementing, or contributing to at least one major program that contributes toward disability-inclusive democracy as outlined in the objectives.
Disability Cohort Indicative Actions
The initial focus of the cohort will be centered around Objective 2, promoting access to voting, political participation, and civic engagement locally and globally. Indicative actions are grouped into two areas:
Influencing the Summit for Democracy Process and Other Summit Stakeholders:
- Encourage participating governments, as well as other stakeholders, to make substantive and concrete commitments related to disability rights at the second Summit for Democracy and the 2025 Global Disability Summit.
- Mainstream inclusion of disability rights within other Summit for Democracy Cohorts, with a focus on the Youth and Election Integrity cohorts.
- Advocate for strong disability rights language in the final Summit for Democracy outcome declaration.
- Advocate for the creation and strengthening of engagement mechanisms to foster the inclusion of persons with disabilities in policy-making processes at all levels. This includes mainstreaming disability rights across a wide range of areas, including climate change, democracy, governance, peacebuilding, public financial management, resilient economic growth, and social sectors.
- Disseminate best practices on disability-inclusive civic and political participation and explore their possible replication and scaling up.
- Facilitate understanding of the links between democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and investigate how sensitive issues such as combatting corruption can be used to drive disability engagement.
- Launch a Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network working group on Disability-Inclusive Democracy.
- Governments make concrete commitments to increase access to civic and political life for persons with disabilities. The Cohort will create a list of sample commitments by collating best practices of governments and civil society members to promote increased participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life. (See a short menu of sample concrete commitments below).
- Australia and the United States are working closely with ASEAN Member State governments and organizations of persons with disabilities to accelerate regional and national implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan and mainstream disability rights into pandemic recovery and disability-inclusive development practices. In September 2022, the United States launched a new program reflecting USD2.5 million over the last 4 years to support the Enabling Masterplan. Australia supported the development and regional implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan through the Disability Rights in ASEAN investment (AUD2.2m, 2018-2022) implemented by IFES through the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA).
- Australia is currently exploring with ASEAN new support for the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan's Mid-Term Review and the implementation of recommendations.
- The United States is working with ASEAN to hold a U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2023 focused on implementation of the Enabling Masterplan and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Disability-inclusive democracy resources, toolkits and good practice examples are developed and disseminated for use by governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, and the media.
- IFES will produce a handbook for election management bodies on how to develop disability inclusion policies.
- Guidance on disability inclusive election technology is developed.
For the Summit for Democracy Disability Rights Cohort Sample Commitments, please visit IFES.org: https://www.ifes.org/summit-democracy-disability-rights-cohort-concept-note