Propositions from Japan and Myanmar at International Conferences on Disabilities

AAR Japan’s staff members participated in two regional conferences, namely the
Rehabilitation International Asia & Pacific Regional Conference, held from June
26th to 28th, 2019, in Macau; and also the Asia & Pacific Regional Conference on
Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID), which took place from July 2nd to 4th, 2019, held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  Sayako NOGIWA, from Tokyo
Headquarters, reports here on the accomplishments and lessons learnt from the
two conferences.

 After the presentation, Sayako NOGIWA from Tokyo Headquarters (third from the left, in the second line), together with the participants from overseas, including Brazil and Gambia. Ms. Etsuko UENO (second from the left, in the second line) generously acted as the moderator. (June 27th, 2019, Macau)

Are the lessons learnt from the Great East Japan Earthquake having an impact? 

The conference in Macau was aimed at bringing about the realization of an
inclusive society, where all people – those with and those without disability – give
mutual support to each other. This venue was filled with the enthusiasm of some 1,500 participants, coming from a total of 33 different countries and regions. (The conference movie can be seen here.)  

During the inauguration session, Mr. Monthian Buntan, a Senator at the House
of Representatives in Thailand, delivered a lecture.  He firstly reviewed the global
trends of all the related issues, explaining that the overarching developmental
goals had been shifted in 2015, from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),
to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He went on to inform of how 197 countries have so far ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities. Mr. Buntan stressed how there was a need to establish and enforce
related national laws, with regard to accessibility for persons with disabilities and also the elimination of discrimination; as well as understanding the importance of establishing rules for disability-inclusive businesses.

Vice President of the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with
Disabilities, Mr. Ryosuke MATSUI, made a presentation on the fulfilment in
Japan of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, providing his observations on the matter, and referring to a parallel report (*1), compiled by
the Japan Council on Disability (JD).  His presentation was very informative and
helpful for understanding the current conditions, and also for deliberating the
direction of future policy in the Asia and Pacific region, including Japan. 
Thereafter, a number of very interesting sessions were held and further
presentations made.
(Part of the presentation materials may be downloaded here.)

 Sayako NOGIWA from Tokyo Headquarters making a presentation on disabled-inclusive disaster prevention and mitigation.  (June 27th, 2019, Macau)

AAR Japan made a presentation at a session on June 27th, firstly on disability-
inclusion, followed by the mitigation of disaster risks. While the death rate of
persons with disabilities was revealed to be two times higher than the total death
rate of all persons (both with and without disabilities) of the Great East Japan
Earthquake – our presentation reviewed whether its lessons have been effectively utilized in other cases of disasters in Japan. This is in light of different
viewpoints, such as the one from Chapter 11 entitled: “Situations of risk and
humanitarian emergencies,” from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities; and that of Goal 7: “Ensure disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction
and management,” from the Incheon Strategy (Note 2*) – as well as the slogan of
the SDGs: “No one will be left behind.”  Our presentation also covered challenges
facing Japan and the future prospects of Japan.

Note *1 The parallel report is a report compiled and submitted by a civil society to the Committee for Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations), on its own views, with regard to the report made by its government on
implementation of the convention.
Note *2 Incheon Strategy is the first set of regionally-agreed, disability-inclusive
development goals for the Asia and Pacific region, adopted at the regional
meeting of ESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), held in November, 2012 in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

 Presentations by AAR Japan’s Yangon Office & Hpa-An Office in Myanmar   

Yuko GOTO from Tokyo Headquarters, Swe Swe Hlaing from our Yangon Office, and Shiho ANZAI from our Hpa-An Office in Myanmar, participated in the
conference in Mongolia. At a session on July 2nd, GOTO and Swe Swe Hlaing
made a presentation on the theme of “disability-inclusive economic empowerment,” reporting the cases and challenges, etc., with regard to the Vocational Training
Center for Persons with Disabilities, managed by AAR Japan since 2000, which islocated in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. They also reported on a
handbook for employing persons with disabilities, published by AAR Japan, in
cooperation with local organizations. 
After the presentation, the publication of the handbook’s international version was
kindly proposed by a related organization. Questions and answers were taking
place continuously throughout the break time, indicative of the great success of
the presentations.

 More than 100 participants listened attentively to the presentation made by AAR Japan’s Yangon Office. (July 2nd, 2019, Mongolia)

ANZAI from Hpa-An Office made a presentation at the session on July 3rd. 
Since 80% of persons with disabilities are said to reside in local rural areas,
away from major cities, she reported AAR Japan’s cases for supporting activities
in these kind of remote areas, and deliberated with the participants about the
importance of, and need for, such activities in such local areas.

Participants line up to ask questions after the presentation, showing that many of them have great interest in the activities of AAR Japan. Shiho ANZAI of Hpa-An Office (left), Swe Swe Hlaing of Yangon Office (center) and Yuko GOTO of Tokyo Headquarters, AAR Japan. (July 2nd, 2019, Mongol)

On July 4th, one day after the closure of the conference, an all-day workshop was
held, with participation of officers from the Asia and Pacific CBR (Community
Based Rehabilitation), CBID (Community-Based Inclusive Development) Network,
and the personnel of related organizations and foundations, totalling about 30
persons – including the author of this article (NOGIWA) – in the capacity as an
officer of JANNET (Japan NGO Network on Disabilities) – to discuss the
possibility of forming a network, or building up a link among related
organizations in the Asia and Pacific region. While the path towards true
fulfilment of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities still
stretches a long distance, the discussions raised many challenging issues, such as the financial difficulties facing NGOs engaged in disability-related work, and the
desire for those fostering young persons with disabilities to take active roles. 
Nevertheless, the workshop yielded the fruitful outcome of an extended possibility for establishing collaborative links for tackling these challenges, beyond one
county or a single region.

Utilizing the lessons learnt & the links established for future activities

By learning from the interesting presentations made by the many different
participants – and through exchanges with, and encouragements by, those who
are making everyday efforts in the field of disabilities – we were able to renew
our zeal for realizing a world that is kind to all persons, regardless of whether or
not they have a disability, and becoming resilient to disasters, through joining all efforts into achieving these common goals.

On July 27th, and again on August 2nd, a reporting session was organized jointly
by the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, together
with JANNET, to provide a detailed report on both the Macau and Mongol
conferences. It was agreed that the utmost effort would be made to make
full use of the lessons learnt. Collaborative links are also to be established,
as a result of the two conferences, in our international as well as domestic

Sayako NOGIWA, AAR Japan Tokyo Headquarters
After joining AAR Japan in 2005, NOGIWA worked at its Tokyo Headquarters,
engaged in activities for the Asia region, including Myanmar.  She has
concurrently been an officer of JANNET (Japan NGO Network on Disabilities),
since 2009, and a Director of the Asia and Pacific CBR Network North Asia,
since 2015.  NOGIWA has served as a planning committee member of the Japan
Council on Disability (JD) since 2016, becoming a member of its Board of
Directors in May, 2019.  She is from the Tokyo prefecture.

Japanese-English translation by Mr. Yukio Kiuchi
English editing by Mr. Richard Whale
This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.