Dubai, October 11, 2015: Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the "Dubai Inclusive Development Forum 2015", organized by the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai on the 11th and 12th of October at Jowharah Ballroom, Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, was launched yesterday to benefit from the international experiences and discuss the challenges and alternatives that contribute to achieving the ultimate goal of the "My Community... A City for Everyone" initiative to turn Dubai into a disability-friendly city by the year 2020.
The forum, part of the "My Community... A City for Everyone" initiative, aims to spread and exchange knowledge regarding the various fields related to the rights of persons with disabilities and the best ways and methods that support their full and effective inclusion in the general life activities.
An Inclusive and Disability-friendly City
H.E. Abdullah Al Shaibani, Secretary General of the Executive Council of Dubai and Vice Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, commented on the Dubai Inclusive Development Forum 2015 during his opening speech: "Welcome to the Dubai Inclusive Development Forum, held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This forum is an important step towards achieving the "My Community... A City for Everyone" initiative to turn Dubai into a disability-friendly city by the year 2020” in implementation of the directives of the wise leadership. H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of UAE, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai stated that: "The individual is the fundamental element of power so we must give the individual our full attention".
"This forum is an opportunity for the participants and attendees to exchange global knowledge and determine the best practical solutions to achieve the required objectives to turn Dubai into a disability-friendly city by the year 2020. This is through setting the main pillars of: healthcare and (re)habilitation services, education at all stages, employment and an easily accessible surrounding environment through facilitated public services such as roads and public transport means.
He added: "We believe in the capacity of the persons with disabilities to participate in the development and building of the future of the Emirate. All government entities cooperate together to support this important segment of the society by working on the development of policies to provide all the needs that help them achieve their objectives and ensure the normal practice of their daily lives."
Discussion and Development of Policies
Ms. Aisha Miran, Assistant Secretary General of Strategy Management and Governance Sector, at the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai, stated: "Through this Forum, we aim to discuss and develop the policies related to persons with disabilities in Dubai, which promote and facilitate their implementation and evaluation to ensure they are able to participate in decision-making. Throughout the stages of development of policies and programs, we seek to involve persons with disabilities in the government work task forces formed for this purpose that are meeting today to discuss the ambitious programs set."
She added: "The importance of integrating persons with disabilities in the community is represented by the reinforcement of their contributions in social and economic life and providing equal opportunities, whether in the early inclusive education, employment opportunities and other aspects directly affecting their lives. This in turn allows us to reach the main aims of the Dubai Plan 2021 through which we focus on building a "coherent and cohesive society" based on common human values of tolerance and co-existence."
An Inclusive Community
In this regard, Dr. Salem Alshafei, Director of Policies and Programs for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai, mentioned: "Today, in the Dubai Inclusive Development Forum, we enjoy the participation of international experts and academics in addition to local specialists to discuss and share the best government policies and experiences around the world concerning the methods of integration of persons with disabilities in the community in a comprehensive and integrated manner. The Dubai journey will also be presented through the "My Community... A City for Everyone" initiative as well as the most important plans for the integration of the persons with disabilities by the year 2020 through the development of policies and programs characterized by following the best international standards. We are confident of the government capacities that will make Dubai a leading model in the field of persons with disabilities".
He added: "The forum includes dialogue sessions and workshops through which several practical experiences will be presented showing the experiences of the persons with disabilities in the various aspects of life and how to ensure they obtain their full rights within an inclusive community free from obstacles that would limit or weaken the opportunities of their participation and contribution in the comprehensive development sought by the Emirate of Dubai through the achievement of the objectives of the Dubai Plan 2021".
During the first day activities, several keynote speakers and specialists in the affairs of persons with disabilities, presented working papers focusing on the importance of inclusion of the persons with disabilities in the community. Ms. Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Global Disability Advisor at the World Bank Group, presented a working paper on the importance of inclusive planning and development of policies. Ms. Nhlapo is a well-known figure in the fields of disability and children's rights. She was appointed by US President Barack Obama in her current position as coordinator of the affairs of the Disability and Inclusive Development Office. She was appointed formerly by President Nelson Mandela in South Africa Human Rights Commission, focusing on the support of social and economic rights and the rights of children and the persons with disabilities.
Mr. Victor Calise, Commissioner at the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, a former participant in Paralympic competitions for persons with disabilities and holder of the US Rehabilitation Award, presented the experience of New York and the methods of achievement of inclusive development in a major cosmopolitan city. He discussed the methods that allow Dubai to achieve inclusive development while shedding light on the inclusion of the persons with disabilities in the various aspects of life.
During the third main session, Dr. Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director of the European Network for Accessible Tourism, shared his experiences on inclusive and sustainable development in the tourism plans of the city, where he talked about the necessary methodologies to integrate the persons with disabilities in the tourism sector. Dr. Ambrose is member in the tourism team of experts at the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
The first day of the forum witnessed several important topics related to the persons with disabilities. The agenda of the forum for the afternoon period included 6 dialogue sessions in which the experts and specialists discussed main topics with the participants related to the detection of disability cases and early intervention, inclusive development, inclusive employment and establishment of business, inclusive education, inclusive tourism, hospitality and entertainment, and social protection.