Teaming up with ALECSO and ISESCO to promote accessibility for persons with disabilities in MENA

UNESCO has joined partners at the International Conference on ICT and Accessibility (ICTA-2015) in advocating for access to information for persons with disabilities in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA). Held in Marrakech, Morocco, from 21 to 23 December 2015, the conference was co-organized by the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), with support from the ENSIAS College of Engineering of Morocco, the Mohammed V University of Rabat, the University of Tunis, the Tunisian association of E-accessibility, and UNESCO.

The opening of the conference was attended by H.E. Bassima Hakkaoui, Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social development of the Kingdom of Morocco. The ceremony was introduced by the ICT Director of ALECSO Prof. Mohamed Jemni, at the presence of Axel Leblois, President of the UN Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs, and of  Michael Millward, Director of the UNESCO Office in Rabat and Representative to ALECSO and ISESCO, as well as of more than eighty public officials from relevant ministries, academics, experts, and CSO representatives from the MENA region.

During an inaugural keynote, Dr Indrajit Banerjee, Director of the Knowledge Societies Division of the UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector, recalled the phases which led to the formulation, and the the adoption by the UNESCO’s General Conference, of The New Delhi Declaration on Inclusive ICTs for Persons with Disabilities: Making Empowerment a Reality, which is acknowledging the power of technological and scientific progress for inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

A thematic session was then devoted to the implementation of the New Delhi Declaration in the MENA region, moderated by Mr Banerjee and with the participation of Mohamed Al-Tarawneh, Inaugural Chairperson and Current Vice Chair of the UN-CRPD Committee – OHCHR; Prof. Jemni from ALECSO; and Prof. Alireza Darvishy, Head of the ICT Accessibility Lab Zurich University for Applied Sciences. 

As a UN agency, UNESCO contributes to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, 2006) within the fields of its competence via the organization’s overarching goal to raise awareness among the international community and governments both on the significance and complexity of disability, as well as the benefits of technological and scientific progress for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society.

UNESCO’s participation to the ICTA-2015 follows the recent international conference on “Inclusion matters: Access and Empowerment for People of all Abilities” held at UNESCO Headquarter in Paris on the occasion of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (3 December), and it is part of the organization’s effort to disseminate the New Delhi Declaration’s principles at regional and local level.