By GRT Guest Blogger Francina Hungría, engineer and founder of Fundación Francina
Last week I had the honor of attending the Fifth Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), representing the interests of people with disabilities. It made me proud to hear the words of our president, Danilo Medina, who invited Latin America to unite to confront the issues that could undermine the development of our countries. In this sense I would therefore like to reiterate one of the key things that secures the future of CELAC: unity.
Currently, more than 85 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean live with some type of disability. Going forward, CELAC should be used as a platform so that within the context of the issues developed in this Summit, each Head of State within the region could also reach agreement to promote the integration of people with disabilities as the region develops.
It is also estimated that more than 90% of people with disabilities in Latin America and the Caribbean are unemployed, which promotes a cycle of poverty that all countries in the region are trying to break out of. An effective way to break this cycle is to empower people with disabilities to make their own decisions about how to address change and the necessary improvements required in that area. We will empower people with disabilities, work for their independence and integration while providing them with opportunities to represent their own interests in venues such as CELAC, where Latin American voices gather.
It is essential to continue creating plans and public policies that help reduce these alarming figures, and represent reform within the pillars of society as a way of achieving genuine and positive growth in this community.
Best practices that ensure the incorporation of all members of society, including people with disabilities, already exist in Latin America. Countries such as Chile and Argentina have adopted measures that improve accessibility and contribute to the participation and inclusion of this sector.
The Dominican Republic therefore has the opportunity and responsibility to be at the forefront of inclusiveness within the Latin American and Caribbean community. United as a region, we can exchange ideas that help all of us move towards an inclusive Latin America.
In his speech, President Medina emphasized that thanks to the free trade agreements signed by CELAC member countries, poverty has been reduced from 22.6% to 12.4%. This is proof of what we can do when we work together.
In President Medina’s own words, we must protect our achievements as we strengthen our ties in order to continue advancing with greater impetus for the social welfare of our people. Progress achieved in CELAC should serve as an incentive to think about how we can continue to build comprehensive development in our nations. Let’s start with inclusion!