National Seminar for ensuring wider disability-inclusion in the social protection policies and programmes in Bangladesh held on 4 December 2021

Disability Alliance on SDGs Bangladesh and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have called on the government of Bangladesh for ensuring wider disability-inclusion in the social protection policies and programmes in Bangladesh. UNDP and Disability Alliance—a network of 27 national and international organisations working for promoting disability rights in Bangladesh—have made this appeal to the government in a national seminar titled “Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities toward an Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post-COVID-19” organised on December 04, 2021 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center in Dhaka. Ms. Zuena Aziz, Principal Coordinator, SDG Affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office, Bangladesh, attended the Seminar as the chief guest with Khandaker Jahurul Alam, Executive Director, Centre for Services and Information on Disability (CSID), as the chair.

The keynote paper jointly presented by Aminul Arifeen from UNDP and Ayon Debnath from Sightsavers showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a human development crisis that has yet to be understood. However, it is evident that the effects of the crisis are unequally distributed, and people who have already been marginalised on the grounds of disability or gender have been disproportionately affected. This makes the need for action more urgent, so that the progress made in recent years isn’t undone. The keynote paper further highlighted that leadership and participation of persons with disabilities must be ensured toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post COVID-19 world.

Speaking as the chief guest Zuena Aziz said, “The Government of Bangladesh is committed to upholding the rights of the people with disabilities in Bangladesh. The Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act 2013 has been enacted and the Action Plan on Disability has been prepared by the government in 2019.” She acknowledged that disability is an integral part of achieving the targets of Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

Amrita Rejina Rozario, Convener of the Disability Alliance on SDGs Bangladesh, and Country Director of Sightsavers, said, “the government should measure the implementation status of the eight commitments made by Bangladesh during the first Global Disability Summit 2018 ahead of the upcoming second Global Disability Summit which will take place in February 2022 in Norway.” Persons with disabilities, and leaders of organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) from different parts of the country have engaged in an open discussion with the policymakers and shared their expectations about the wider disability inclusion in the country and about the upcoming Global Disability Summit 2022 in Norway.

Shibani Bhattacharjee, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, Md. Hamidul Haque, Joint Secretary, National Foundation for Development of the Disabled Persons, Tahera Jabeen, Social Development Adviser at British High Commission Dhaka were present as special guests among others including representatives from ILO, Access Bangladesh Foundation, Women with Disabilities Development Foundation etc. Two video documentaries premiered in the event also showcased the sufferings of the persons with disabilities in Bangladesh due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In his concluding remarks, AHM Noman Khan, Executive Director, Centre for Disability in Development (CDD), urged the government of Bangladesh for ensuring effective implementation of the country’s disability laws realising the true need of the people with disabilities and their organisations.The Social Security Policy Support (SSPS) Programme of the Cabinet Division and General Economics Division (GED), Planning Commission, Government of Bangladesh with technical assistance from DFAT and UNDP provided supported for this event.