Against the background of the articles of the UN conventions CRPD and CRC, and sustainable development goal number 4 on education, experts, NGOs, and public authorities met to jointly deliberate and discuss the situation of children with disabilities in 2019. The emphasis of the event was sharing positive experiences and initiatives, as well as looking critically at areas that are lagging behind. The Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations and the Nordic Council of Ministers were behind the initiative, co-hosted by UNICEF and the World Bank.
30 million children excluded
Although 90 percent of the world’s countries have strategies for including children with disabilities in education systems, there are still many children who remain excluded because some systems and schools cannot cater for their needs. In fact, this number amounts to more that 30 million children worldwide according to the Education Commission Report 2016. Mark Waltham, Senior Education Adviser at UNICEF explains that there can be many reasons for this, including a lack of physical accessibility and poor access to educational materials, as well as social and psychological issues that result in the stigmatisation of individual children.
Inspiration across borders
Various initiatives were discussed at the event with the aim of providing inspiration for the various participating countries. Moderator Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, who is a Global Disability Advisor, spoke about the Inclusive Education Initiative, which spreads knowledge about pedagogical and technological initiatives in the field. The project is funded by Norway and the United Kingdom, and is run by the World Bank together with UNICEF.
Knowledge that works in the field of disability
The importance of sharing initiatives that work is the main point of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ report on the social field: “Knowledge that works in practice” by Iceland’s former minister for social affairs Árni Páll Árnason. This point was made again at the side event in New York, including by Jan Christian Kolstø, state secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, who called for more statistics and data in this area going forwards.
Nora Eklöv, Youth for Accessibility Network, Sweden
Jan-Christian Kolstø, State Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Norway
Mark Waltham, Senior Education Adviser, UNICEF
Anita Hørby, Ministry for Children and Social Affairs, Denmark
Tuomas Tuure, Threshold Association, Finland
Minna Karvonen, Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland
Thor Thorarinsson, Ministry of Social Affairs, Iceland
Mia Modig, Equally Unique, Sweden
Magnus Lagercrantz, National Agency for Participation, Sweden
Regina Mugure Mwangi, Leonard Cheshire Youth Leader, Kenya
Markus Operiano, Leonard Cheshire Youth Leader, Philippines
Eivind Digranes, Norwegian Association of Youth with Disabilities, Norway