All the Early Stage Researchers have the possibility to spend a six month secondment with one of the associated partners of the DREAM (Disability Rights Expanding Accessible Markets) network. It is a great opportunity to become familiar with the work of important disability NGOs, enjoying their support and expertise while working on certain parts of our projects. In an ideal case, a secondment should be beneficial for both the researcher and the hosting organization, so we hope to contribute our best to the on-going policy work of most of our partners.
I’m going to spend the next four months in Brussels, working for the European Disability Forum (EDF), which is the representative organization of persons with disabilities in Europe (http://www.edf-feph.org/default.asp). My research is focusing on the National and European monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), with regard to the involvement of Civil society and especially persons with disabilities. As the European Union is coming up with its proposal relating to the EU level implementation of the CRPD, this seemed to be the perfect time to follow-up the decision by working closely with EDF. It is really important to ensure that the framework designated by the European Union in order to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the Convention will be compliant with the requirements of the CRPD and will enjoy broad support of Civil society.
The involvement of Civil society and in particular persons with disabilities in all policy and decision-making processes relating to their lives (UN CRPD Article 4.3) is in the heart of the Convention. The most important element of the CRPD is the paradigm shift, which reconceptualised disability as a human rights issue. The slogan “Nothing about us without us!” clearly refers to the importance of ensuring full involvement of persons with disabilities, which is a great challenge considering that the group has been historically marginalized. In the next four months I am planning to do an analysis on the National level involvement of EDF member organizations to see how they find their current participation in policy – and decision-making processes and what are the key elements of effective and active involvement in their view. Last weekend attending the EDF Board meeting in Copenhagen and conducting interviews with important actors of the disability movement made it clear that as a researcher we should follow the principle, that no one, except the disability movement knows how they want to be involved and what is best for them. In my opinion, our research should be as inclusive as possible by involving the voice and opinion of persons with disabilities. This is why I am delighted to do my secondment at the European Disability Forum and listen to the opinion of the disability movement on the implementation of the UN Convention.