China now has an estimated 85 million people with disabilities, a number comparable to the population of Germany, according to Tim de Meyer, director of the International Labor Organization country office for China and Mongolia, setting a tough goal for China to achieve the sustainable development for this group of people.
To promote the participation of people with disabilities in the sustainable development process, the China Disability and Sustainable Development Forum was held in Beijing on Friday. More than 100 policy makers and experts attended the forum.
Since 2014, ILO, UNDP, UNESCO and UNICEF in China have been working together with national partners and stakeholders to promote rights and entitlements for people with disabilities, with the support of the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Organized after the conclusion of the UNPRPD Project Phase I, the forum demonstrated and consolidated project outcomes. It also enhanced the understanding of relevant parties on disability issues and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Marielza Oliveira, director and representative of the UNESCO Beijing Office, said that the first phase of the project provided a twin-track intervention in China to mainstream disability resources.
On one hand, it strengthened the institutional capacity of the organizations of people with disabilities to advocate for and improve their partnerships with national and local authorities in promoting disability inclusiveness. On the other hand, it strengthened the capacity of key government and professional institutions to protect the rights, entitlements and legal protections afforded to people with disabilities, including the rights to education, employment, and social participation.
Four sub-forums, covering topics of inclusive education, media and awareness-raising, supported employment, and access to services, included discussions on measures to replicate the success of the pilot project and the use of existing opportunities to continuously improve relevant policies. The purpose is to determine how to accelerate the transformation of current circumstances for people with disabilities in order to achieve the 13th Five-Year Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.
Inclusive education encourages children with disabilities to gradually get involved in ordinary school life to meet diverse learning needs and help them prepare for future life.
Promoting inclusive education has been a long-term goal for both UNESCO and the Chinese government. China's newly revised regulation on education for people with disabilities promotes educational integration and prioritizes mainstream education for children with disabilities.
The sub-forum on media encouraged the "16 Recommendations on positive reporting on disability" to call on the media to report disability-related issues with a right-based approach, so as to improve public awareness of equal rights, dignity, abilities and contributions of people with disabilities, as well as to contribute to the elimination of discrimination and prejudice against them.
When introducing supported employment, Zhou Kai, deputy director of China Disabled Persons' Federation, said that the federation would launch a training program that aims to train 2,500 job coaches by 2020, who will provide employment assistance for over 20,000 people with intellectual and other severe disabilities.
"More and more businesses have come to see persons with disabilities as a growing market," Patrick Haverman, UNDP deputy country director in China, said at the sub-forum on access to service. "They realize not only the social but also the economic value of incorporating the needs of persons with disabilities in their products and services."
UNICEF will also work with the government and other partners in China to promote the development of a child protection and welfare system, so that all children, including those with disabilities, can access services from education to recovery.