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The General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) has brought together disability-led organizations and election-related organizations to successfully raise awareness about political and electoral rights for persons with disabilities in Southeast Asia.
Through strong collaboration and coordination between participating organizations, AGENDA:
- Supported partners in conducting research about persons with disabilities and their access to elections in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Vietnam
- Advocated with local election organizations to make improvements to election accessibility
- Encouraged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to adopt political rights for all as part of their human rights agenda
- Hosted three regional dialogues about the political participation of persons with disabilities, in which election and disability leaders met to share ideas and knowledge for improving election accessibility in the region
As a result of its work, AGENDA is now one of the leading regional organizations in Southeast Asia promoting the political rights of persons with disabilities.
AGENDA’s accomplishments have been significantly supported by a focus on sharing knowledge and regional collaboration. Though disability-led organizations are eager to support political and electoral rights, they might not fully understand the electoral process. Similarly, election organizations are very knowledgeable about political processes and elections, but might not have experience supporting people with disabilities. By creating a partnership, organizations can share knowledge and expertise, and increase their numbers so that they are able to more easily get the attention of governments and other organizations. As you will see from AGENDA’s work throughout the years, this has been essential to its success.
In the first phase of AGENDA’s work, partners included disability-led organizations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar Laos, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. A core team of two disability-led organizations from Indonesia (PPCI and PPUA Penca) and a national voter education and election monitoring group (JPPR), worked with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to help coordinate everyone’s efforts. AGENDA’s work was supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
During this time, AGENDA focused on:
- Collecting data. The partners realized that there was not enough information about the types of barriers that people with disabilities were facing in Southeast Asia. Therefore, research studies were organized in five countries to collect more data.
- Developing recommendations. The new data was used to develop recommendations for local election organizations. AGENDA was able to share the new data and recommendations with the election organizations, which led to advocacy efforts and discussions about how to improve accessibility.
- Sharing knowledge in the region. By hosting two regional dialogues, publishing the data, and creating a website, AGENDA was able to distribute valuable information on good practices and lessons learned for supporting accessible elections in Southeast Asia.
- Supporting the Bali Commitments. Through the second regional dialogue, AGENDA was able to support the creation of a regional initiative, the Bali Commitments on Equal Access to Elections. Participants who joined the regional dialogue, including election organizations and disability-led groups, agreed to support election accessibility and inclusion.
- Creating new election tools. A new checklist was developed to specifically monitor election accessibility, one of the first to be made. It was used in the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Dominican Republic, later becoming an important influence on the creation of other election accessibility checklists used around the world.
In the second phase, disability-led organizations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam continue their collaboration with JPPR and IFES to expand AGENDA’s work even more. The new phase is supported by the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
AGENDA has continued all of its earlier work and is adding new activities:
- Hosting a third regional dialogue. The largest regional dialogue ever on political participation for persons with disabilities included more than 200 participants from 25 countries, including people from election organizations, disability-led organizations, media, governments, and international organizations to share new ideas and best practices.
- Supporting the Jakarta Addendum. At the third regional dialogue, participants agreed to support a new, follow-up document to the Bali Commitments, called the Jakarta Addendum to Address Overlapping Forms of Marginalization. It supports the Bali Commitments by adding that persons with disabilities from all different types of backgrounds (age, ethnicity, religion, gender) should be included in elections.
- Writing new guidelines for media. The Media Guidelines for Reporting on Election Accessibility are used to help journalists understand how to respectfully and accurately report about persons with disabilities who participate or want to participate in elections and political events. This is valuable because journalists are able to influence the public with well-written stories.
- Continuing regional advocacy on political rights. By meeting with people from ASEAN, United Nations organizations, election organizations, and human rights committees, AGENDA is able to advocate for equal access to political rights and encourage both local and regional action.
The General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) is a coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) and disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) from five countries in Southeast Asia that aims to promote the political and electoral rights of persons with disabilities.
To achieve this goal, disability-led organizations and election-focused organizations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam collaborate with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to conduct research studies, coordinate advocacy efforts, monitor elections for accessibility, and encourage regional dialogues on the political participation of persons with disabilities.
Together, AGENDA partners are raising awareness about accessibility for persons with disabilities in elections across the region and ensuring that disability rights are a prominent part of ASEAN’s developing human rights agenda.