Cesario Da Silva, Director of Assosiasaun Defisiensia Timor-Leste (ADTL), one of Timor-Leste’s leading organisations on people with disabilities

Cesario Da Silva, Director of Assosiasaun Defisiensia Timor-Leste (ADTL), one of Timor-Leste’s leading organisations on people with disabilities

Timor-Leste Passes Historically Unprecedented Resolution to Promote and Protect Rights of People with Disabilities

The National Parliament of Timor-Leste has taken unprecedented steps towards building a more equal society by unanimously passing the ‘Resolution to Promote and Protect Rights of People with Disabilities’ on 1 October 2019.

The resolution specifically refers to Oxfam’s co-hosted national seminar on inclusive budgeting for people with disabilities held earlier this year that Parliament representatives attended.

The Resolution to Promote and Protect Rights of People With Disabilities

The Resolution urges the Government to adopt a wide variety of measures designed to protect people with disabilities, such as:

  • Commence the legal procedures for ratification for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – in which Timor-Leste has yet to ratify

  • Promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all public life
  • Conduct awareness-raising activities to prevent the exclusion of children and youth with disabilities from access to schooling and vocational training
  • Ensure public buildings and facilities are accessible to people with disabilities
  • Ensure adequate training for health professionals and teachers to improve healthcare care and education for people with disabilities

You can read the full resolution here.

While the resolution demonstrates current commitment of the government to focus on these efforts and more, disability inclusion has traditionally been neglected in Timor-Leste. The resolution demonstrates the growing awareness and momentum for disability inclusion within the country. But how did we get here?

Oxfam’s advocacy in disability inclusion

Oxfam in Timor-Leste’s accountability and transparency project, Open The Books, works with local partners to advocate for inclusive budgeting and social accountability in Timor-Leste. People with disabilities in Timor-Leste were, prior to this project being implemented, missing from debates about the state budget.

Earlier this year, Oxfam in Timor-Leste worked with local partners to bring people with disabilities at the forefront of national attention. For the first time ever, Timor-Leste’s disability stakeholders held press conferences, TV talk shows, seminars and written submissions on the state budget. The national seminar, hosted in June 2019 by Oxfam and local partners, also pushed the agenda to consider disability inclusion in next year’s state budget. In preparation to the national seminar, Oxfam worked with local partners to support people with disabilities’ understanding of state budget processes, what it meant to them, and how they could influence decision makers to support a more inclusive future for Timor-Leste.

“This is something new for us, we have just started learning about it… we need to do more advocacy, but to do that we need to know how much (budget) should go to each issue. We don’t have this information.” – Cesario da Silva, Director of Assosiasaun Defisiensia Timor-Leste (ADTL)

Disability in cross-cutting issues

In Timor-Leste, awareness has been low among key decision-makers – from the national to local government levels. This has not just been in the social accountability space but  also in other areas, such as in the Disaster READY program which focuses on building communities’, including persons with disabilities, resilience to natural disasters and unpredictable climate.

During a local disaster management committee training on disability inclusion earlier this year, Mr Laurentino De Jesus spoke on the value of disability inclusion training conducted by Oxfam and local partners:

“From this training, I realised the importance of involvement of persons with disability in all development processes, considering we do not leave someone or any vulnerable groups behind because we are in the same space.” said De Jesus, who serves as the Sub-District Administrator of Suai Villa.

As Timor-Leste, Southeast Asia’s youngest nation, continues to take steps towards building an equal society, Oxfam and its local partners look forward to advocating for and demonstrating good practice on disability inclusion in all aspects of the nation’s development.