25.06.2013 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

“UN Special Rapporteur on Disability stresses the need for better data on Persons with Disabilities in Indonesia”

A two day event entitled “National Dialogue on the Realization of the UNCRPD” took place on June 11-12 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta Indonesia. It was organized by the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and supported by UNESCO Jakarta Office and Australian Aid under the Australian Indonesian Partnership for Justice Program. The meeting was well attended by many stakeholders from civil society and governmental institutions. Mr Shuhaib Chalken, the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability, was also in attendance and delivered a keynote speech and participated in panel discussions.

The two-day event was closed with the presentation of a core document that presented the objectives and targets of Disabled people organizations’ (DPOs) action plan on disability in Indonesia. The document was put to a vote and faced no objections. However further working sessions are scheduled to finalize this action plan. It is hoped that once it is finalized, it can be presented to the government and subsequently reconciled with the government’s own action plan.

DPOs Exchange Best Practices and Make Headway on an Action Plan

On the first day, participants and disabled persons organizations (DPOs) were organized into six regional groups. Participants from Sumatera, Jawa Barat, Kalimantan, Central Java, West Nusa Tengara, Bali, and Jakarta shared their experiences of successes and challenges in regards to disability rights and accessibility initiatives with the audience at large. Examples of activities that have been undertaken include awareness raising campaigns, scholarships for the blind, promotion of inclusive universities (Solo) , campaigns to have BISindo (community based sign language) be recognized by the government, sports trainings and tournaments for persons with disabilities (WNT),  skills trainings (Bali), etc. It was clear that DPOs with assistance from local government partners are active in challenging the structural limitations of their regions, working to transform them to become more accessible as well as providing services for persons with disabilities and their families and communities.

Some of the key challenges that were mentioned by all of the groups included:

 a) the need for more coordination across sectors and regions- a decentralized government structure and a dispersed archipelago geography are challenges for cooperation and transparency ;

 b) the need to better socialize the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) so as to complete the shift from a charity approach to a Human Rights approach – despite campaigns to translate the UNCRPD into Bahasa Indonesia and Braille and to raise awareness about the Human Rights approach to disability that empowers persons with disability, engrained cultural perceptions and practices that take a charity approach to social change are persistent;

c) challenging negative stigma’s and stereotype’s about ability – these negative assumptions are not only present in communities but are often internalized by families of persons with disabilities as well

d) lack of resources – adequate funding, human capacity, leadership and consistent and effective cross generational and regional participation.

These are some of the common challenges that DPOs and government institutions are aware of and eager to overcome.  The government is currently developing a national action plan on implementing the UNCRPD. At this meeting, DPOs began the process of creating their own action plan in response. Preliminary discussion were held in which participants from DPOs provided inputs on which 5 key articles of the convention they believe should be focused on. The main criteria for choosing priority articles was that they should have a significant long term impact and not be a cross cutting issue. Although no final consensus was reached, many ideas were exchanged.

Exchanges between DPOs and government on disability rights and priorities

On the second day, opening remarks were delivered by a representative of Komnas Perempuan, the Counselor for Governance and Social Development from Australian Aid Indonesia, the UN Resident coordinator a.i., and a representative from the Ministry of Social Affairs of Indonesia. Each applauded the work that stakeholders in attendance had been doing and reconfirmed the commitment of their respective institutions to further supporting disability rights work in Indonesia. Representatives of the government confirmed that they are drafting a national action plan to help implement the UNCRPD, which the Ministry of Social Affairs is currently finalizing. Furthermore they are establishing a monitoring and coordinating mechanism which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently looking at. They also expressed the possibility that Indonesia will eventually ratify the optional protocol to the convention. However no details were given as to when that might happen. Komnas Perempuan highlighted the experiences of women with disabilities. UNRC a.i Ms Angela Kearney encouraged all who were in attendance to continue collaborating with one another and challenged them to do more to address the urgent needs of persons with disabilities. 

Message of the UN Special Rapporteur: The importance of data and the post 2015 development agenda

Mr Chalken delivered a key note speech in which he said that “currently 150 UN member states have ratified the UNCRPD”. This shows the great interest of governments in disability rights and provides great opportunities to raise awareness and take meaningful actions.  UN agencies and other development agencies have similarly become more aware of disability rights issues and have better incorporated them into their programmatic work. Unfortunately the Millennium Development Goals didn’t explicitly include persons with disabilities but there is a global movement to lobby member states to rectify this by creating a post 2015 development agenda that addresses disability rights.  

Mr Chalken then shared some of his initial observations about disability rights challenges in Indonesia.  He remarked that a critical component to implementing any article of the UNCRPD is accurate data and statistics. Developing better data collection mechanisms is a key step that must be taken. Furthermore, a widespread lack of awareness about disability rights and human rights mechanisms in general is a critical barrier that must be overcome. Governments have a duty to fulfill the rights of citizens and disabled persons need to be empowered to demand their rights.  Mr Chalken cited Article 33 of the UNCRPD as a useful resource that details the institutional framework needed for the implementation of the UNCRPD. Article 33 recommends that a focal point is established who can influence all levels of government, a coordinating committee is established to implement the CRPD, a monitoring mechanism is established that meets the criteria outlined by the Paris Principles that guarantees independence ,  and that DPOs participate meaningfully in the monitoring process.

Mr Chalken stressed that lack of resources are not an excuse for a government to fail to implement the UNCRPD. A national action plan for its implementation needs to be developed within the constraints of the countries capacity. It needs to be context appropriate so that realistic results can be achieved within a specified time frame. Implementation is a gradual process that takes time but it will be eventually realized if realistic and achievable goals and priorities are made which can gradually be further built upon.

Mr Chalken encouraged DPOs to unite together as this will strengthen their voice and ability to agitate for the rights of persons with disabilities. Sustained and focused collaboration with government institutions will ensure that the implementation of the UNCRPD takes place.

In the panel discussions that followed Mr Chalken’s speech, some common issues related to disability rights in Indonesia were raised. Firstly, there is a lack of adequate and reliable data on persons with disabilities. This is a shortcoming that the government is aware of and working in collaboration with other partners to improve on. Secondly, the legal framework on disability is not up to date with contemporary definitions and models of disability rights. Currently, three drafts for a new law about disability exist. They need to be reconciled so that one can be presented for discussion to the parliament. Finally, public perception and understanding of disability rights is a persistent challenge.  Cultural, Medical, and charity based understandings of persons with disabilities dominate public opinion. These frameworks perpetuate negative stereotypes about the value of persons with disabilities. These common notions are deeply entrenched and act as significant barriers to implementing the UNCRPD. A human rights model of disability that empowers persons with disabilities needs to be gradually and consistently socialized throughout the country. Mainstreaming an understanding of persons with disabilities as valuable members of society who have the inherent right to participate fully in their communities is a vital part of the process of implementing the UNCRPD.

UN in Indonesia’s Contribution to the promotion of the UNCRPD


UN agencies in Indonesia are joining forces to support the implementation of the UNCRPD though their participation in the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD). In Indonesia, the UNPRPD is supporting the UN joint programme entitled ‘Promoting the Rights of Disabled People in Indonesia’. In this programme ILO, UNESCO, UNFPA and WHO are working with the Government of Indonesia and DPOs to address two specific areas of interventions:

1) to reinforce national institutions and mechanisms for better and stronger coordination in raising awareness and promoting disability rights that will remove bottlenecks enabling sustainable government interventions and allocation of budgets for disability, and

2) to strengthen technical capacity of Statistics Indonesia to provide with improved disability data for more strategic policies concerning persons with disabilities.

Furthermore, UNESCO Jakarta through its Social and Human Sciences Unit is actively working to support the implementation of the UNCRPD. It is doing this through four key initiatives:

a) to develop a strong network of Inclusive Cities where local municipalities in partnership with DPO’s and other stakeholders can meet to exchange best practices and support on another in improving the accessibility of their communities ;

b) facilitate trainings of youth with disabilities to become leaders in their local communities on disability rights issues

c) support the process of further developing Indonesia’s legal framework on disability issues

d) organizing public events to raise awareness about the UNCRPD, disability rights, and providing well publicized platforms for cross regional collaboration between stakeholders.


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