Trade policy ignores people with disabilities, says Finland’s FM report

Trade policy ignores people with disabilities, says Finland’s FM report

International trade impacts the goods and services that are produced and consumed in countries. It also affects employment opportunities and working conditions. Not everyone is able to benefit, however. Disadvantaged groups, such as persons with disabilities have limited access to the opportunities generated by trade and they disproportionately shoulder adjustment.

Persons with disabilities account for one in six adults worldwide and are a very diverse group. Most of them live in low and middle-income countries. They include persons who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which often hinder their ability to participate in society on an equal basis.

In recent years, inclusive trade has become prominent in policymaking. The goal of inclusive trade is to ensure that the benefits from trade are more widely shared. To date inclusive trade initiatives have focused mainly on strengthening the participation of women and young people in trade opportunities. However, disability inclusion receives only limited attention in these initiatives.

To address this gap the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland commissioned a study to increase knowledge and awareness of the multiple ways in which international trade affects the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. The study was prepared by Dr. Marzia Fontana from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex and professor Sophie Mitra from Fordham University in New York City.

The report outlines the key issues involved in disability inclusive trade and develops an analytical framework for deepening our understanding on how trade integration impacts persons with disabilities. The report combines this analytical framework with insights from case studies from low and middle-income countries to offer recommendations to ensure that trade contributes to economic and social rights of persons with disabilities.

The report calls for a disability inclusive trade agenda that ensures access to affordable goods and services essential for persons with disabilities and emphasizes the quality of employment that trade can generate, not just number of jobs. The substantive participation of persons with disabilities in trade policy decision-making is crucial for shaping such a policy agenda.

Aid for Trade support has an important role to play in facilitating the implementation of such measures in low and middle-income countries and to promote trade agendas that are closely aligned with objectives of disability inclusion.


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