UN Human Rights Council: Skills development and economic empowerment for all

Geneva, 17 March 2017How to assure the right to vocational education and training as well as employment as enshrined in article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Which innovative practices and policies exist, and how to best cooperate to implement them and scale them up? Which ways forward to enhance further the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the implementation processes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?
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MA students, with course director Dr Rama Mani, musician Paul Grant, UNOG Library and WFC staff

“The Transformative Power of Justice”: A Creative Tribute on UN Human Rights Day

On December 8th, 2016, the United Nations in Geneva marked UN Human Rights Day in dramatic style. The UN Library in Geneva partnered with World Future Council, Geneva Academy and the UN Missions of Afghanistan and Cyprus to host an event entitled ‘The Transformative Power of Justice’ featuring an unprecedented format of theatre, music, poetry, testimonies and a high-level roundtable dialogue.

Following an evocative welcome by the UN Library Director, Mr. Francesco Pisani, Mr. Adam Abdelmoula, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, set the scene by underlining the challenges of securing human rights in the today’s turbulent context, and engaging the participation of all citizens of the world.

“This invites us to witness what is, to imagine what can be, and to enact the change we need in our lives and in the world.” 

A diverse group of MA students from 5 continents, 28 nationalities, and collectively speaking over 16 languages, offered a multi-cultural production on transformative justice and human rights through the arts. They are the first generation of the Master of Advanced Studies in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and The Rule of Law at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. As part of their program, the students were introduced by Dr. Rama Mani to Transformative Justice and the Theatre of Transformation, which in Mani’s own words “invites us to witness what is, to imagine what can be, and to enact the change we need in our lives and in the world”. In the words of the MA students, through this course, “Professor Mani opened our spirits into a different way of thinking and applying transformative justice in post conflict societies. She helped us dream big and envision the changes we want to make in this world.” 

MA students (and kids) performing

MA students’ and kids’ performance of peacebuilding.

The power to enact transformative justice was potently portrayed in the students’ presentation. Starting with poignant renditions of ancient and original poems on justice in Persian and Arabic, students representing all five continents converged to offer a riveting Theatre of Transformation performance. They enacted brief testimonies of victims and perpetrators from around the world who, stage by stage, witnessed destruction, awakened new possibilities, envisioned change, and enacted transformation in their lives and in society. The students’ performance culminated poignantly with one MA student’s four small children portraying child soldiers who reject their weapons and choose to build peace for future generations. Mani then enacted three evocative real-life testimonies of individuals she has met and collaborated with in post-conflict countries, to demonstrate the two key messages of Transformative justice: in order to be transformative for individuals and societies as a whole, justice has to

(i) include all people in society, whether victims, perpetrators, bystanders or beneficiaries, and

(ii) integrate all dimensions of injustice, cultural, ecological, and metaphysical, in addition to legal and political.

An unforgettable highlight was the music performed by Paul Grant, the world-renowned maestro of Indian, Iranian, Afghan and Kashmiri music (www.Paulgrant.net). Mr Grant, who has been instrumental in preserving the ancient musical traditions of war-torn countries like Afghanistan, lent his blissful melodies on sitar, santoor and table to accompany the entire performance and enrapture the audience.

Roundtable with Ambassadors from Cyprus, Colombia and Afghanistan, chaired by Dr Mani

Roundtable with Ambassadors from Cyprus, Colombia and Afghanistan, chaired by Dr Mani.

The performance paved the way for a profoundly insightful high-level roundtable, featuring Ambassador S. Dalil from Afghanistan, Ambassador A. Ignatiou from Cyprus, Mr. Valencia representing Ambassador Londoño Soto from Colombia, and Mr. Abdelmoula from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Each speaker commended the students for bringing to life so creatively and compellingly this transformative approach to justice and rights. Each speaker expressed how the joint performance had affected them personally and informed them professionally. In turn, each of the distinguished panellists brilliantly applied the transformative justice lens to analyse the journey and lessons learned in each of their countries, and from their own diverse experience.

Ambassador Dalil’s illuminating analysis of Afghanistan underscored the need to redress structural injustice and recognise the interdependence between security, justice and development. The lessons learned from Afghanistan emphasise that justice has to empower the community and be bottom-up, inclusive and human-centred. “Justice has to be population-owned and population-managed,” she concluded.

Justice has to empower the community and be bottom-up, inclusive and human-centred.

Ambassador Ignatiou reiterated the key learning from the students’ performance that transformative justice has to be comprehensive, broad and inclusive. His fine analysis of the complex conflict in Cyprus demonstrated, through several examples, that although ‘the past doesn’t rest neatly in the past but affects the future and the present,’ it is still possible to pursue reconciliation and cultural justice even concluding peace.

Ambassador Londono was represented by Counsellor Mr. Valencia, who pointed out that “justice has been the most complex and most criticized” part of the peace process in Colombia. Yet, Colombia’s justice package marks a turning point for Transitional Justice, as it is innovative in its integrality and holistic nature, with truly transformative potential for Colombian society and for the future of transitional justice.

Mr Abdelmoula drew on his extensive experiences addressing transitional justice from Somalia to Iraq to Liberia to point out that ‘no country is immune to conflict’. He noted that ‘forgive and forget is the cause for repetition’ of conflict. He recommended that to avoid this vicious cycle it is essential “to dig deeper, analyse, expose and keep memory alive,” and he underlined the imperative to give a much greater leadership role to women in justice and peace.

The lively interaction with the highly diverse audience raised pertinent concerns, fascinating questions and insightful remarks on the diverse dimensions and applications of transformative justice.

This unique and fascinating event exposed the convergence between students, speakers and audience members on the need for a new, inclusive and transformative approach to justice. It confirmed that the human dimension is key to restore justice and build peace. They confirmed that arts, culture and creativity are essential to chart new avenues to secure rights in today’s turbulent context. It reminded us that the principles and practices of transformative justice are not new but timeless, harking back to indigenous cultures and ancient civilizations around the world. It reaffirmed that in today’s divisive context it is essential to go beyond retribution and build inclusive, integrated and transformative justice to secure durable peace.

– By Clarita Montant, Ingrid Heindorf, Daniela Ferreira and Dr. Rama Mani

Regenerative and Inclusive Cities: at the Habitat III in Quito

From 17 to 20 October 2016 HABITAT III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, will be held in Quito, Ecuador. At the HABITAT III conference, Governments are expected to adopt the New Urban Agenda that will guide the sustainable and inclusive development of the world’s cities for next 20 years.

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Zero Project launches call for nominations of Innovative Policies 2017

Work is essential for realizing other human rights and it forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity. Employment of persons with disabilities is about the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible.

Hence, the Zero Project 2017 is focusing on Work, Employment, and Vocational Education and Training, and our call for nominating innovative policies has just been launched!

Any type of policy can be nominated, concerning:

  • any form of work (employment, own-use production work, volunteer work, trainee work),
  • any status of employment (employees, employers, own-account workers, members of producers’ cooperatives, contributing family workers and other) and
  • all phases of employment (including recruitment, hiring and employment, advancement and conditions of work), including those innovations that facilitate the transition from segregated settings to forms of employment in the open labour market.
Consider, for instance, policies concerning:
  • non-discrimination,
  • the transition from school to work,
  • technical and vocational guidance,
  • placement services and assistance in finding, obtaining, maintaining and returning to employment,
  • vocational and continuing training, inclusive apprenticeships,
  • adaptations to the workplace, job design, tools, machinery and work organisation,
  • self-employment, entrepreneurship, cooperatives and starting one’s own business,
  • financial incentives and tax exemptions,
  • just and favourable working conditions,
  • career advancement,
  • part-time employment and other job arrangements,
  • supported employment,
  • coordination with other services (e.g. embedding employment specialists in clinical treatment teams),
  • peer support,
  • train-the trainer-programmes,
  • disability-inclusive social security or
  • certification of companies.



You know about an outstanding policy? Nominate it!

Submitting a nomination is easy:

Read the instructions first, complete the nomination form (available in several languages) and then send the nomination form to: i.heindorf@zeroproject.org by May 15, 2016 (23:59 CET).

If selected, the nomination will be included as an “Innovative Policy 2017” in the Zero Project Report and on our Website. Nominated organizations as well as their nominators will be invited to become part of the Zero Project expert network. Moreover, representatives of the most outstanding Innovative Policies will be invited to present at the Zero Project Conference in February 2017 in Vienna (Austria).

We are looking forward to receiving your nomination!

The Zero Project Team & Zero Project Partners

This article was originally published on zeroproject.org

Inclusive Education and ICT for All – Side event at the 31st Human Rights Council

On the occasion of the 31st Human Rights Council, the Permanent Mission of Austria and the International Disability Alliance, together with the Permanent Missions of Australia, Canada, China, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, and Thailand, supported by the Zero Project, the Essl Foundation and the World Future Council, will hold a side event on “Inclusive Education and ICTs for All: Towards Accessible and Sustainable Societies”. The event will take place at Room XXI, Palais des Nations, on 9th March 2016, at 12-2pm.

Visit the Zero Project website for more information.


Fifth Zero Project Conference in Vienna

From 10-12th February 2016, the Essl Foundation, the World Future Council and the European Foundation Centre will hold once again the Zero Project Conference at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria.

Independent Living for All – Side event at the 28th Human Rights Council

5 March 2015, Geneva: Side event at the Human Rights Council

On the occasion of the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, the Permanent Mission of Austria and the International Disability Alliance, together with the ten other Permanent Missions, as well as the European Network on Independent Living, with support of the Zero Project, held a side event on “Independent Living for All: Towards Inclusive and Sustainable Societies”. The event, which took place at Palais des Nations, on 5th March 2015, was attended by about 60 representatives from permanent missions, including seven Ambassadors. Moderated by H.E. Thomas Hajnoczi, Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN in Geneva, the following speakers took the floor:
  • H.E. Lenín Voltaire MORENO GARCES, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility (video)
  • Catalina DEVANDAS, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Lisa MCNABB, Down Syndrome International: What means Independent Living for me?
  • Nadia HADAD, European Network on Independent Living: My human rights through Independent Living?!
  • Frédérique WIEMEIJER, Essl Foundation & Ingrid HEINDORF, World Future Council: The Zero Project Report 2015 on Independent Living & Political Participation – Social Indicators, Innovative Practices and Policies
  • H.E. Thani THONGPHAKDI, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN in Geneva,
  • H.E. Regina Cordeiro DUNLOP, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN in Geneva, &
  • H.E. Yisheng REN, Minister Counsellor of China to the UN in Geneva

For more information visit: zeroproject.org and Independent Living for All – Zero Project Report 2015 presented in GenevaIndependent Living for All – Zero Project Report 2015 presented in Geneva

Accessibility under victim assistance norms – Side event at the 3rd Maputo Review Conference

Some 40-50 delegates of the Third Review Conference of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in Maputo attended our side event on Creating accessible and inclusive societies: Accessibility under victim assistance norms organized together with the Permanent Mission of Austria on 24th June 2014. The event focused on the implementation of accessibility measures as part of victim assistance norms. Moderated by Ms. Caroline Wörgötter, Delegation of Austria, the event started with the opening keynote speech of H.E. Iolanda Maria Pedro Campos Cintura, Minister for Women and Social Affairs of Mozambique. Subsequently, the following panel speakers intervened:

  • Ingrid Heindorf, Human Rights Officer, Zero Project / World Future Council (WFC): The Zero Project Report 2014 on Accessibility
  • Firoz Ali Alizada, Campaign Manager, International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL);
  • Claude Tardif, Head of Physical Rehabilitation Programme, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); as well as
  • Albino Forquilha, Executive Director, Promoção da Paz, Prevenção do Crime e Reinserção Social (FOMICRES).

Flyer (DOC) – Press release in German (DOC) – Final Report (DOC)

For more information visit: http://zeroproject.org/maputo/

Progress and challenges in implementing article 9 of the CRPD – Side event at the 7th COSP

On 11th June 2014, the Zero Project supported a side event on Creating accessible and inclusive societies for all: progress and challenges in implementing article 9 of the CRPD, organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Missions of Austria and Mexico, to highlight the importance of accessibility measures for persons with disabilities. Michael Fembek, Head of the Zero Project, was presenting the Zero Project Report 2014. The event took place at the UN Headquarters in New York on the occasion of the Seventh Session of the Conference of the State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Flyer (DOC)

For more information visit: http://zeroproject.org/new-york-new-york-new-york/  – http://zeroproject.org/the-zero-project-speaks-today-at-two-events-in-new-york/  – http://zeroproject.org/the-zero-project-at-side-event-of-this-years-conference-of-the-state-parties-to-the-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/

Geneva Round Table “Philanthropy & Handicap”

On 1 April 2014, Ingrid Heindorf, Zero Project Head of Policy Research, participated at the Roundtable “Philantrophie & Handicap”, organized by the Chancellerie d’Etat du Genève and SwissFoundations, and hosted by Fondation Lombard Odier. About 50 representatives of foundations and public authorities attended and discussed how public-private partnerships can further improve the situation of persons with disabilities.

After the welcome and introduction by Mauro Poggia, Geneva State Councellor, and Anja Wyden Guelpa, Geneva State Chancellor, the roundtable speakers Marc Maugué, Fondation Wilsdorf, and Stephan Eliez, Fondation Pôle autisme, elaborated on their experiences with public-private partnerships in the area of disability. This first part was moderated by Karin Jestin, Secretary General of Fondation Lombard/Swissfoundations.

The second part of the roundtable was moderated by Anja Wyden Guelpa, Geneva State Chancellor. It discussed, firstly, selected innovative practice examples from the Zero Project Report 2013 and, secondly, the current work of Geneva’s Disability Directorate with Michel Blum. From the Zero Project Report 2013, Ingrid Heindorf presented in particular Discovering Hands, which engages blind women to detect breast cancer, and Specialisterne, which provides meaningful jobs to people with autism. Both examples caught considerable attention from participants. >>Invitation >>Programme >>Presentation  >>Article in Feuille d’avis officielle de la Republique et Canton de Genève (in French, PDF)

For more information visit: https://www.ge.ch/philanthropie/rencontres-philanthropiques/philanthropie-handicap.asp