In the framework of the first EU-Arab High-Level Meeting for Disability Rights, organized on April 25 in La Valletta by the Government of Malta, 26 European and Arab countries signed the Valletta Declaration on EU–Arab Cooperation in Affirming Disability Rights and Creating the EU–Arab Cooperation Forum in the field of Disability Rights (“Valletta Forum”). Through this declaration, these countries re-affirmed their commitment to abide by the principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and Sustainability Development Goals and reinforce regional cooperation.
The meeting was preceded by a technical day on April 24, bringing together local, EU and Arab experts and civil society representatives, including Autism-Europe.
During his address, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela stated that, “The importance of the relationship between the EU and the Arab World cannot be underestimated and it is gatherings like this that further strengthen European-Arab ties, with the overall objective of bringing peace, stability, and sustainable growth in our region.”
In the concluding remarks, Parliamentary Secretary for Persons with Disability and Active Ageing, Anthony Agius Decelis, said that as governments we need to lead by example through the provision of accessible services, promotion of inclusive policies, allocation of funds and development of new initiatives.
“We need to work across sectors by understanding their needs, the challenges that they are facing to adopt inclusive practices, and ultimately come up with effective solutions,” stated the Parliamentary Secretary.
He said that as a country we should be proud that we have initiated the dialogue between European and Arab delegations through the first ever EU-Arab High-Level Meeting for Disability Rights. He encouraged all participating countries to continue working together for the benefit of persons with disabilities in our respective countries.
Autism and inclusive education
The previous day, on April 24th, representatives from Arab countries both from the governmental and civil society sector met for a technical meeting together with representatives of the United Nations, the European Commission, the European Disability Forum (including Autism-Europe ) and the International Disability Alliance. The meeting was dedicated to discuss the implementation of the UNCRPD in various fields.
Autism-Europe Director, Aurélie Baranger, participated as speaker in the parallel workshop on inclusive education. In the session dedicated to progressing towards a Universal Design for Learning, she highlighted the CRPD provisions regarding access to inclusive education and the recommendations CM/Rec(2009)9 from the council of Europe to member states on the education and social inclusion of children and young people with autism spectrum disorders.
She stressed the importance of having an individualized approach, as every autistic people are different and may require different types of support. She also described some of the main barriers faced by autistic learners to access education and provided some examples of reasonable accommodation to overcome them, as well as policy recommendations.