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COVID-19 shifted ILO GBDN´s focus on how to ensure a disability-inclusive response
17 Jun 2020

On June 17th, 2020, Disability Hub Europe (DHUB) held in virtual format its 2nd partners’ Steering Committee. The ILO Global Business and Disability Network (ILO GBDN) was represented by Stefan Tromel, Senior Disability Specialist, who explained how COVID-19 has shifted the focus of the organization. This shift leans mainly towards ensuring a disability inclusive response and recovery from the socio-economic crisis, and also leading towards a “building back better” attitude. Stefan also gave a wider perspective of the activity carried out within the ILO.  

ILO first focused on the immediate issue, which was lock down confinement situation and how to make sure that measures to that respect were inclusive of people with disabilities. The organization also focused very quickly on issues around social protection. The ILO document, “Social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis: Country responses and policy considerations”, shows that in many countries social protection has been a very effective tool for people which were in a particularly challenging situation.

Stefan also highlighted the relevance of partnerships to be able to give response. “The ILO works very closely with other UN entities, so we have tried to promote a coordinated response to the issues because we all know that it is not just enough for the ILO to be doing its part”, he stated. As a result, ILO worked together with other UN entities on the policy brief “A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19”, launched by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres. “It was really important for us because it was a message of the UN saying that we need a disability inclusive response to COVID-19”, Stefan said.

In parallel, ILO worked on the brief “COVID-19 and the World of Work: Ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities at all stages of the response”, which looks on one hand at the confinement situation and on the other at how to  ensure that measures taken by countries in the economic response include people with disabilities. Also, in that brief ILO made a deep dive into the “build back better” context stating that there is a chance to come out of the crisis, in a more disability inclusive way.

ILO also organized a few webinars. The first one – under the title “Disability Inclusion in COVID-19 responses in the World of Work– was held in March with a great response. The most recent one, that took place in March, supported the brief elaborated within the organization and the following one will focus on the private sector. Furthermore, ILO had also the blog post “If a ‘new normal’ is to be a better normal it must include persons with disabilities” written by one of their team members, who is a person with disabilities that reminded everyone that even though we all have complex situations, we must definitely think about those that have an even more complex one. Finally, they also made a survey amongst companies to find out what their main concerns were and what measures are being taken to mitigate the impact on people with disabilities. It was acknowledged that there is a common concern, mostly from companies from developed countries, that, in the absence of support from the Government, their commitment to disability inclusion will be negatively impacted.