IASG, composed of all UN Agencies, was created to facilitate and coordinate the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and covers a diverse range of activities and initiatives related to disability issues. The IASG meeting is, therefore, intended to sustain a dialogue between different UN bodies working in this area in order to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
Among the items to be discussed in Paris will be a debate on the implementation of the Outcome Document of the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Realization of the Millennium Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities, which took place during the UN General Assembly meeting on 23 September 2013. The IASG meeting will thus be instrumental to carving out the vital role that disability-inclusive development will play in the post-2015 development agenda.
The first day of debates will consist of a closed internal meeting only to enable technical discussion between UN Agencies. The second day will be an open discussion that will involve non-governmental organizations and disabled people organizations working on issues related to disability. The second day will also include a thematic workshop in the areas of inclusive education; access to information and knowledge; ICT accessibility and disaster preparedness and response; as well as social inclusion and internal disability policies and practices.
UNESCO promotes the rights of persons with disabilities to access information and knowledge using ICTs as their inclusion stands at the heart of UNESCO’s work. The brochure, New Avenues for Empowerment: Access to Information and Knowledge for Persons with Disabilities, provides more information about UNESCO’s work in this area.
Defined as any type of educational materials in the public domain, or released with an open license allowing free use and distribution, Open Educational Resources (OERs) present Ministries of Education with a strategic opportunity to increase the quality of educational materials and using ICT to increase access to education especially for disadvantaged groups.
The intensive 2-day Workshop and 1-day meeting with the Ministry of Education was facilitated by the Oman National OER Support Committee and 2 experts from UNESCO: Mr Fengchun Miao and Mr Abel Caine.
The Workshop resulted in the development of the comprehensive draft National OER Policy focussing on key-entry points including textbook production, teaching and learning materials, the upgrade of the Ministry portal, and training materials for in-service and pre-service teachers.
As Chairperson of the Oman National OER Support Committee, reporting directly to the Minister of Education, Ms Aaisha Al Balushi was very impressed by the level of commitment shown by the delegates. “As the benefits of using and sharing OERs are obvious, I was very happy to see my colleagues developing unique policy solutions for adoption and overcoming possible implementation challenges.”
Mr Sulaiman Al-Kindi, Director General of Information Technology at the Ministry of Education looked forward to implementing the new OER technologies, “Oman is a regional leader in deploying open source software solutions. OER technologies especially those to increase access to people with disabilities or for reading and learning on mobile phones will help us to achieve educational and economic goals.”
The OER Policy will be incorporated into the existing Oman ICT in Education Strategy. UNESCO is supporting the Oman OER Policy Project within the framework of the UNESCO Project for Supporting the Paris OER Declaration.
Following on from the 2012 World OER Congress which released the Paris OER Declaration calling on Governments to openly license educational materials, the Hewlett Foundation (USA) provided UNESCO with a grant to support the development of national-level OER policies and associated capacity-building of teachers to use, develop, and share OERs.
Mr Fengchun Miao from UNESCO explains “The Project will be implemented in 3 countries from 2013 – 2014: Oman, Kenya and Indonesia.
For Oman we are developing a new Policy. In Kenya, we are linking various OER policies, and for Indonesia with an existing comprehensive OER policy, we are conducting a review together with the OECD. Several countries including Bahrain have joined the project on a self-funding basis.”
Mr Abel Caine was very pleased with the Oman Workshop, “The level of enthusiasm and high-quality exchanges from the 45 delegates especially the vocal female staff and team leaders from the Ministry led to the rapid development of the draft. I’m very confident we will quickly finish and obtain Ministerial approval for the Policy and that Oman will be the 1st Member State from the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab region to have a clear-cut OER Policy. This will be a highlight of the planned 2nd World OER Congress in 2015.”
Public bodies hold information of critical importance for women’s lives, related to their rights, education, health, access to public services, social programmes, loan opportunities and income-generating activities. Access to this type of information is an important step for women’s empowerment and can positively impact on their well-being, socio-economic development as well as informed participation in the public sphere.
The workshop that will take place in Rabat on 22 and 23 November 2013 will bring together 30 NGOs engaged in promoting gender equality and human rights in Morocco in order to mobilize their support to use access to information mechanisms to advance gender equality in Morocco. “The right to access to information used in a strategic way by the human rights organizations can also contribute to expose cases of violation of women’s rights and help to mobilize the government to better ensure their protection” said Naji Zirari, the coordinator of the Moroccan association to fight violence against women.
Based on the experience of the association Mujeres en Igualdad, based in Argentina, as well as other success stories from Morocco in advancing social and political inclusion and the achievement of women’s rights through access to information, the two-day workshop will aim at identifying information that could be requested from public bodies as well as concrete actions contributing to strengthen the missions of the NGOs by using access to information.
Freedom of Information reflects the fundamental premise that all information held by governments and governmental institutions is in principle public. Over the past 10 years, the right to information has been recognized by an increasing number of countries through the adoption of a wave of FOI laws. In 1990, only 13 countries had adopted national FOI laws, whereas there are currently more than 90 such laws adopted across the world.
The organization of the activity above is made possible thanks to the support of the Government of Finland and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.