Suomi/Africa
Perspectives from Africa,
engagement from Finland
 
 

Understanding Africa

Representing Africans

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Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

It is expensive to be different

“I am not a politician. I am not here to bring change. I am here to tell my life history, so that others can learn from it,” said Marko Vuoriheimo - AKA Signmark, a deaf rap musician, and the first deaf musician in the world to get a record deal. Mr Vuoriheimo was acting as Finnish special envoy at the third session of the African Union (AU) Conference of the Ministers of Social Development, held on 26-30 Nov 2012 in Addis Ababa under the theme: ‘Promoting the Rights and Welfare of Persons with Disabilities’.

Mr Vuoriheimo attended the AU event alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and other Finnish delegates in Addis, promoting the rights of people with disabilities and pressing to support the formation of the African Disability Forum, an initiative that can turn Africa in a whole new direction.
Kalle Kankkila, chairperson of the Finnish Disability Association, also lent support to the African Disability forum.

“I am happy that Ethiopia has ratified the Disability Convention. My message is quite simple. Wherever I go, I tell governments, civil servants and decision makers at higher levels that they need to meet and discuss people with disabilities, and should hear their voices and concerns not only at national but also at regional and international levels,” said Kankkila. “We need dialogue, participation and cooperation, and the opportunities to express our views - as development is based on people's meaningful communication and participation.”

Mr Vuoriheimo attended the AU event alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and other Finnish delegates in Addis, promoting the rights of people with disabilities and pressing to support the formation of the African Disability Forum, an initiative that can turn Africa in a whole new direction.
Kalle Kankkila, chairperson of the Finnish Disability Association, also lent support to the African Disability forum.

“I am happy that Ethiopia has ratified the Disability Convention. My message is quite simple. Wherever I go, I tell governments, civil servants and decision makers at higher levels that they need to meet and discuss people with disabilities, and should hear their voices and concerns not only at national but also at regional and international levels,” said Kankkila. “We need dialogue, participation and cooperation, and the opportunities to express our views - as development is based on people's meaningful communication and participation.”

As Kankkila said, income is key to independence, and the Finnish Disability Association, Signmark and others are supporting local disability organisations in Ethiopia - such as the Federation of Disabled People, the Disabled Women’s Organisation, and disabled students associations in Addis Ababa and Hawassa Universities - in income generating activities. Further to this, Tuomas Tuure, Development Secretary with the Finnish Disability Association, observed that this conference is one step in a very long way and one of the key components in the new AU African disability architect they are here to support.

Tuomas Tuure, Development Secretary with the Finnish Disability Association, also said this conference is one step in a very long way and one of the key components in the new AU African disability architect they are here to support.Tuomas Tuure, Development Secretary with the Finnish Disability Association, also said this conference is one step in a very long way and one of the key components in the new AU African disability architect they are here to support.
 

“We supported the ratification of CRPD in many countries. Ethiopia is a very close country to us. We support the disability movement in the country. We have come many times a year,” Tuomas Tuure added.

“The conference is a good opportunity to speak of my life and convey the message to the Ministers,” said Signmark. “My message for the decision makers is that they should start collaborating with organisations who represent disabilities and really listen to what they say - because disabled people are experts on their need and know what they talk about.

“I hope decision makers listen and try to find compromises and common grounds for better resources and budgets to make sure equality and fair accessibility. When they really listen to disabled people, I am sure that would help other people too. I hope that the ministers understand this conference is important and a means to achieve something for Africa. This is the right time. The CRPD is there since 2006 it is not a good funny book but a chance for Africa to actively represent disable people. Fifteen years from now, the future looks good - if people are really serious, and believe this is true.”

Collaboration on capacity

After gathering new information on the innovation sector in The African Disability Forum (ADF) is an initiative proposed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability in collaboration with key stakeholders in the AU commissions, ARI the Secretariat of the African Decade as well as national, sub-regional and regional organisations across Africa. The ADF is envisaged to serve a multi-stakeholder forum that will advance the situation of persons with disabilities in the Africa Region through:Marko Vuoriheimo - AKA Signmark

(1) Facilitating broad based dialogues, especially in conjunction with annual AU inter-governmental meetings and processes with a view to raise awareness about disability issues and provide policy and technical advice.

(2) Strengthening regional networking and partnership among key stakeholders in the disability community in Africa.

(3) Generation and dissemination of research on the promotion of disability-inclusive development.

(4) The capacity development of the relevant key stakeholders.
The UN has promoted the advancement of persons with disabilities in society and development from earliest years through adoption and implementation by the international community and its members of disability specific instruments, such as the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (1982) and the Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1994) as well as international human rights and development instruments. The movement to advance the rights of persons with disabilities at the international level culminated in 2006 with adoption by the UN of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD), both a human rights and development instrument, and accompanying Optional Protocol.

These three core disability-specific instruments, together with other relevant human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, constitute the international normative framework on disability for the advancement of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development.
Accordingly to an AU Social Affairs communique, the Social Ministers conference ended by adopting:

• The Continental Plan of Action of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (2010-2019).

• Decisions on the proposal African Union Disability Architecture.

• Proposal for the Restructuring of the African Rehabilitation Institute (ARI).

• Decision on the Implementation of the Call for Accelerated Action on the Plan of Action towards Africa Fit for Children.

• Decision on Best Practice for Social Protection measures towards vulnerable groups in Member States.

• An African Common Position on Good Practices in Family Policy development and implementation for the 20th Anniversary of the international Year of the Family in 2014.

Meskerem Lemma