The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), in collaboration with UNICEF, convened the AICHR Regional Workshop on Enhanced Access to Education for Children with Disabilities on the 13-14th December 2017 in Da Nang, Viet Nam. The workshop brought together participants and resource persons from relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies (such as AICHR, SOMED, ACWC, SOMSWD, and SOMHD), government officials from ASEAN Member States, representatives from international organizations, non-governmental organizations, disabled people organizations, academics, and parents and children with disabilities.
The Workshop is the first ASEAN cross-sectoral initiative focusing on the right to education for children with disabilities. Speaking at the Opening session, H.E. Ambassador Nguyen Thi Nha, the Representative of Viet Nam to AICHR, emphasized the importance of providing learning opportunities for one of the most vulnerable yet occasionally excluded group of children in realizing a people-centered, people-oriented, and inclusive ASEAN Community. H.E. Nguyen Thi Nghia, Vice Minister of Ministry of Education and Training confirmed the commitment of Viet Nam Government to enhancing access to education for children with disabilities and called for further cooperation from other ASEAN Member States in that area. Ms. Yoshimi Nishino, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Viet Nam highlighted the significance of inclusive education as the goal of educating children with disabilities and UNICEF’s commitment to work with the government to ensure that “no one is left behind”.
During the two-day Workshop, participants reviewed current situation and education needs for children with disabilities in the region and discussed how to promote regional cooperation to move forward the agenda. They also exchanged legislations and practices on specialized and inclusive education models in each ASEAN Member States and had an opportunity to visit an inclusive education resource center in Da Nang, Viet Nam.
It was noted that children with disabilities can put their potential to use when given opportunities to engage and participate in schools and communities and that various efforts have been made to promote the right of education for children with disabilities. However, the issue has not been fully addressed and still requires a crosscutting approach and a concerted effort by not only ASEAN sectoral bodies and government officials but also relevant regional and international stakeholders, and every individual of the society. They are, therefore, encouraged to actively participate in the policy consultation and implementation process. Many also reiterated international conventions and regional agreements such as the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as basis for further cooperation on the issue.
The Workshop was organized by AICHR Viet Nam, the Viet Nam ASEAN National Secretariat – Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the support of UNICEF Viet Nam, the Ministry of Education and Training, and the People’s Committee of Da Nang City.