The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) organized a roundtable in Cairo, Egypt as part of the development of the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance, and Elections (BRIDGE) training program. The new disability rights module is being developed along with IFES teams in Haiti and Indonesia. The session focused on identifying key issues regarding inclusion of people with disabilities in the electoral process. Participants from various disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs) in Egypt discussed ideas with IFES staff and curriculum developers.
BRIDGE is a modular professional development program with a particular focus on elections. Modules focus on technical elections administration issues, such as voter education as well as on how to include marginalized groups, such as women. Access for persons with disabilities is addressed generally in other modules, but currently there is not a module focused specifically on disability rights. IFES is writing a new BRIDGE module entitled “Disability Rights and Elections” in order to fill this gap. The program will be designed for election stakeholders, including DPOs, election management bodies, election observers and civil society organizations. The purpose of the roundtable in Cairo was to receive input from DPOs on the content and design of this new module, while at the same time identifying the barriers and challenges for participation of persons with disabilities and identifying actionable recommendations to relevant governmental stakeholders for improving electoral access.
The roundtable began with an overview of the BRIDGE program and the purpose of the new disability rights module. There was an interactive discussion with the participants about the various barriers people with disabilities can face in every phase of the electoral cycle, and in particular, their experiences in the May 2014 presidential elections, during which some new measures were adopted. The group then had a discussion on the principles behind the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which provides a legal framework against discrimination on the basis of disability.
IFES and their BRIDGE partners are seeking to support the development of a strong democratic state in Egypt through the inclusion of people with disabilities, who are some of the stakeholders that are most often left out of the electoral process. Fifteen percent of Egypt’s population has a disability, which is more than the entire voting population of Australia. Building democracy requires strong and broadly representative elections. The development and enhancement of the disability BRIDGE module, the training of stakeholders, and the implementation of concrete solutions, will allow Egypt to take steps towards greater inclusion of all its citizens.