“We need to listen to indigenous disabled persons”
8 Jun 2022
Persons with disabilities within indigenous communities are especially vulnerable in cases of crisis or climate change. "We need to listen to this group. It is central that persons with disabilities also may live outside of the big cities and have other cultures", says Sif Holst.
Sif Holst, vice chair of the Disabled People’s Organisations, Denmark, is one of the speakers at the Nordic side event during the conference of State Parties to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD), held in New York next week; Indigenous persons with disabilities – challenges and opportunities posed by environmental change | UN Web TV.
The Nordic side event will focus on indigenous peoples and climate change since this group suffers disproportionately from loss of biological diversity and environmental degradation.
– We need a dialogue and listen to the people concerned, says Sif Holst, who is also a member of The Council of Nordic Cooperation on Disability.
Persons with disabilities from indigenous communities are especially vulnerable in cases of extreme weather events and climate disaster.
– We in Denmark have a lot to learn from organisations in Greenland that teach the young and children an understanding of nature.
Sustainable welfare service
The need for climate action imposes upon states an obligation to implement welfare services for persons with disabilities, in a sustainable manner.
– Sometimes people need to travel from Greenland to Denmark to get certain services, says Sif Holst.
The Nordic side event will shed light upon how welfare services can be customized to the needs of indigenous disabled persons, in respect of the connection to land, nature and traditional knowledge.
– Things that work well in Copenhagen will not necessarily work well in Nuuk, or in small villages, regardless of if it is in Greenland or in Lapland. Because there are cultural differences and the services available are limited, says Sif Holst.
Candidate to the committee
Sif Holst is also a candidate to the UN CRPD committee, awaiting the election that will be held at UN on June 14:th. She has been Denmark’s candidate once before, in 2020.
– I think I have a better understanding of the UN system now, and what is important. We had a pandemic since last time and now we have more focus on climate change and refugees, says Sif Holst.
These are issues that are close to heart for her; climate change and refugees.
– Often persons with disabilities are forgotten when it comes to these issues, since it’s not about traditional social politics. That’s why we need to have focus here.
Sif Holsts aim is to work cross sectoral and get disability issues on the agenda from the start, when it comes to more than just social issues.
– How can we work so that we don’t just add the disability perspective afterwards? We have a refugee program, we have a climate program, and many more, but we still forget about persons with disabilities. Why? They are of course part of these target groups, says Sif Holst.
Focus on health after the pandemic
One of the issues that Sif Holst would like to work with as a committee member is health.
– After the pandemic it’s important that we raise the issue of how we can understand disabilities and health, says Sif Holst.
Health crises may occur again in the future and there are other kinds of crisis that we need preparation for.
– The pandemic has shown that persons with disabilities were deprioritized in a situation of crises. Difficult decisions were made during the pandemic and now we need to evaluate what was good and what wasn’t, says Sif Holst.
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