Ensuring human rights, gender, and disability-inclusive programming and implementation through active involvement of differently abled persons

6 October 2022, Islamabad, Pakistan - UNODC Pakistan attaches special importance to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and endeavors for their inclusion in every aspect of its programming and implementation. Commitment to inclusion was reaffirmed during a special session titled “Consultation with and Active Involvement of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities”, organized at the UNODC Country Office here in Islamabad. Participating organizations of the session including National University of Sciences and Technologies (NUST) and Good Will Kaniz Foundation (GWKF) were represented by Dr. Nabeel Anwar, Lead Expert and Dr. Sana Saleem, Vice Chairperson, respectively.

Syed Arslan S Zaidi, Senior Programme Officer, in his opening remarks, presented a brief overview of UNODC Pakistan, its mandate and strategic priority areas in general, and the importance of disability inclusion in its programming and implementation in particular. Emphasizing the need for mobilizing various organizations from public and private sectors as well as civil society to include special persons in their programmes and operations, he elaborated on how UNODC could be helpful in making it work. Mr. Zaidi also reflected upon a number of other aspects including awareness, government and civil society responsibilities, rights and privileges of differently abled persons, and streamlining of the criminal justice system.

Highlighting the importance of inter-agency collaborations, meaningful consultation with PWDs and their representative organizations, for successful implementation of United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS), Dr. Nabeel Anwar, Lead Expert NUST, identified the gaps in technical knowledge and capacity of staff and emphasized on the need for developing and rolling out training activities for bridging these gaps while focusing on both head office and field staff. He also presented a number of practical suggestions for enhanced inclusion. His address was followed by a detailed a discussion on exploring ways for improved facilities for PWDs and their enhanced access to UNODC premises, services, conferences, training activities, and workshops.

Dr. Komal Nisa, Country Programme Manager for Disability at GWKF, mesmerized the audience with her touching story that described her journey as a differently abled person. She was a brilliant student at her university when she was run over by a rash driver, left with a broken leg and crushing injuries. She recalled the poor response by police on the scene and then at police station with regard to case registration that required a cumbersome process, especially the submission of medical certificates issued by a government hospital. Dr. Nisa also highlighted the failure of criminal justice system to prosecute the preparator and the agony she and her family had to suffer throughout the episode. However, she never gave in and remained steadfast to complete her studies and today she was successfully working as a physical therapist as well as Programme Manager Disability at GWKF, she added.

Deliberating upon the care of PWDs in prisons and courts, Dr Sana Saleem, Vice Chairperson GWKF, along with her team members, focused on the accessibility of differently abled person to public platforms, buildings, road crossings and parks. She also discussed the important role the law enforcement agencies could play, in making the life equitable for PWDs. She further elaborated how GWKF was providing online teaching jobs and assistance to PWDs through different means as well as collaborating with Friends of Paraplegic Center, Peshawar (the only paraplegic center in Pakistan working free of cost for PWDs). She took the opportunity to offer her assistance to UNODC in its future training programmes on mainstreaming disability.

A future plan of action was also devised during the session which concluded with following recommendations:

  1. A system may be established to ensure that PWDs and their representative organizations are consulted during relevant stages of UNODC programmes and operations.
  2. UNODC should actively participate in relevant inter-agency networks on disability inclusion and ensure its engagement in joint initiatives with United Nations (UN) entities and other partners
  3. An accessibility audit may be carried out to identify ways for enhanced access of PWDs to UNODC premises and services.
  4. A local pilot assessment should be carried out to understand the situation of PWDs and barriers to accessing support for their better upbringing, and explore the ways for enhanced assistance on part of UNODC.
  5. Relevant material should be developed and disseminated with the help of internal and external stakeholders to improve technical knowledge and capacity of the staff (self-learning online material or workshops).
  6. Short training sessions for PWDs and the people working in the field may be incorporated in the ongoing programs and field workshops.
  7. A Practical Guide on with minimum standards should be developed to ensure that all UNODC communications and public messages are disability inclusive.