ECOWAS unveils action plan for inclusion of physically challenged persons

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Participants at the event in Abuja

Ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) responsible for the inclusion of people with disabilities have validated a 2022-2030 regional action plan for the inclusion of physically challenged persons in their countries.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the action plan aims at strengthening regional partnerships to increase the inclusion and mobilisation of resources for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

The ministers, who pledged to support and implement it in their respective countries, made this known at the end of a two-day hybrid meeting (both virtual and face-to-face)in Abuja, and recommended it to the regional Council of Ministers for adoption.

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Speaking at the event, ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, Prof. Fatou Sarr, reiterated the bloc’s commitment to providing leadership and coordinating the necessary resources to support member states in implementing the plan.

She expressed satisfaction at the validation of the plan, stressing that it represented a significant step forward for the rights of people with disabilities in the ECOWAS region.

The plan, she said, would encourage member states to adopt and implement laws and policies that would promote the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Sarr said that the disability inclusion action plan also recommended the creation of an ECOWAS Agency for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities, taking into account the economics of disability inclusion.

This is aimed at encouraging the ECOWAS Commission to recruit people with disabilities, and increase its support for the provision of support equipment to all member states, she said.

The commissioner also explained that participants urged their countries to step up their efforts to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities by improving and adopting a standardised tool for collecting data on disability in the region.

The participants also recommended member states to increase networking, establish partnerships and involve the private sector and other development partners in mobilising resources at national and regional level for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

They also committed to the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, which is still considered to be very low in West Africa.

The participants also noted that to date, only one country in the entire African continent has signed and ratified the Protocol on Disability to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

It would be recalled that in August 2021, the ECOWAS Commission inaugurated the regional study on the inclusion of disability in West Africa, in response to the need to take account of people with disabilities in the region.

The results of this study led to the development of the regional action plan for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

This plan aims to have a positive impact on the living conditions of people with disabilities by guaranteeing their rights and full participation in society.

It covers three priority areas, which include improving the inclusion of disability across all aspects of the work of the ECOWAS Commission, as well as improving the legal and policy environment framework.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Needs and Equal Opportunities, Mohammed Issa, presented a plaque to all the participants as part of the official unveiling of the ‘Beyond Disability’ project.(NAN).

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