From January 28-29, 2015 the third Regional Dialogue on Access to Elections brought together more than 200 representatives from disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs), election management bodies, governments, media, and international organizations to spark an exchange of ideas and best practices on strengthening equal access to political and electoral rights for persons with disabilities.

The two-day conference was co-hosted by the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA), the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB), and the General Election Commission of Indonesia (KPU). AGENDA is a Southeast Asian coalition comprised of disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs), election monitoring groups, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). Support for the conference was provided by the Australian Government’s Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Opening speeches by Suyoung Choi, Director of A-WEB, and H.E. Simon Merrifield, the Australian Ambassador to the ASEAN, highlighted the simple but powerful themes of the conference. Mr. Choi noted that it was “vital that people get involved with politics and understand elections from an early age,” and encouraged participants to share ideas on how to support youth with disabilities in accessing their electoral rights. Mr. Merrifield stressed the importance of ensuring persons with disabilities have the tools they need to address barriers themselves, adding simply that “what is good for persons with disabilities is good for us all.”

Participants from more than 25 countries across Southeast Asia and beyond joined expert panelists and presenters to explore emerging themes in accessible elections, such as the increasing need for outreach to youth with disabilities, collaborating with media for greater representation in election coverage, and strategies for improved implementation of key international and regional policies, such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real.”

On the final day of the conference, participants came together to confirm their support of the Bali Commitments established at the close of the 2nd Regional Dialogue in November 2012 through the Jakarta addendum 2015. The Bali Commitments reaffirm the international frameworks on human rights – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – as the legal basis for the fulfillment of the rights of persons with disabilities. The participants held a community discussion on the Jakarta Addendum to address overlapping forms of marginalization, an effort to further support persons with disabilities who belong to more than one marginalized group, such as women with disabilities. Jakarta addendum is enclosed to this email.

Closing remarks from Vasu Mohan, the Europe and Asia Director of IFES, and Khofifah Indar Parawansa, the Minister of Social Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, brought the conference full circle. Mr. Mohan thanked the organizers and the participants and expressed hope that the review of the Bali Commitments will serve as a reminder of our responsibility to work together to eliminate barriers to participation in political life. Ms. Khofifah Indar Parawansa praised the regional dialogue effort acknowledging that such events bring more attention to the important issue of political access for persons with disabilities to the governments of the region. The event was streamed live on website where the full video from the event will be available shortly.