ECOWAS Validates Plan for Inclusion of PWDs in West Africa (2022-2030)

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Les Membres Du Présidium Lors De La Cérémonie De Clôture De La Réunion Ministérielle
Les Membres Du Présidium Lors De La Cérémonie De Clôture De La Réunion Ministérielle

On Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Abuja, Nigeria, ministers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) concluded a two-day hybrid meeting to validate a comprehensive regional action plan for the inclusion of people with disabilities in West Africa.

The plan, covering the period from 2022 to 2030, received unanimous support and was recommended to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers for adoption.

The ministers committed to implementing the plan within their respective countries and made several key recommendations, including the establishment of an ECOWAS Agency for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities. They emphasized the importance of considering the economics of disability inclusion, encouraged the ECOWAS Commission to recruit individuals with disabilities, and advocated for increased support in providing essential equipment to all member states.

Further recommendations focused on enhancing efforts to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, developing a standardized tool for data collection on disability, and fostering partnerships with the private sector and development partners to mobilize resources at both national and regional levels.

A significant commitment was made towards the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, which has seen low adoption rates in West Africa. Currently, only one country on the African continent has signed and ratified this protocol.

The journey towards this regional action plan began in August 2021 when the ECOWAS Commission initiated a regional study on the inclusion of disability in West Africa. The findings from this study informed the development of the action plan, which aims to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities by guaranteeing their rights and ensuring their full participation in society. The plan outlines three priority areas: integrating disability inclusion across all aspects of the ECOWAS Commission’s work, enhancing the legal and policy environment, and strengthening regional partnerships to increase resource mobilization.

Speakers at the validation ceremony expressed their satisfaction with the plan, viewing it as a significant step forward for the rights of people with disabilities in the ECOWAS region. They urged member states to adopt and implement laws and policies that promote disability inclusion.

Professor Fatou Sow Sarr, ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to providing leadership and coordinating resources to support the implementation of the plan.

In addition, Mohammed Abah Issa, Senior Special Adviser to the President of Nigeria on Special Needs and Equal Opportunities, presented participants with a plaque during the official launch of the ‘Beyond Disability’ project on June 27, 2024. This initiative aims to promote the inclusion and accessibility of people with disabilities in Nigeria.

This action plan marks a pivotal move towards a more inclusive and equitable society for people with disabilities in West Africa.

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