I’m happy to be here, and to open this event.
Democratic participation is a fundamental right in any civilised society!
The entire population shall have the right to participate in decision-making, to express their opinions, and to contribute to shaping the policies and direction of their country.
Democratic participation has a value in itself. It is not just about achieving specific goals or winning debates.
It is about creating a society where people have a say in their governance and to influence the direction of their community or nation.
CRPD article 29 states that “States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others”.
This includes to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others,
To ensure that voting procedures, facilities, and materials are appropriate, accessible, and easy to understand and use, and to actively promote an environment where persons with disabilities can participate in the conduct of all public affairs.
Norway is at the top of the democracy index, and the democratic participation is high. 77,2 percent voted in the last parliament election.
In 2013 an equal share of people with disabilities stated that they had voted in the parliamentary election, as the rest of the population.
However, that does not mean that everyone has the same opportunity to political participation.
Persons with disabilities are under-represented in political decision-making.
Although persons with disabilities in Norway are more politically active than the general population, they are under-represented in publicly elected bodies, and in political parties.
Therefore, they lack presence in the places where decisions are made. That is a democratic challenge!
This can be due to many reasons, and the civil society particularly points out lack of universal design and lack of information.
Our vision is a society where everyone can participate on equal terms.
Norway has enacted legislation that states that all municipalities and counties must have a council for persons with disabilities.
These councils shall be involved in all cases of interest for people with disabilities.
Furthermore, we have changed our election laws, so that persons with disabilities now have the opportunity to bring their own assistant into the voting-booth.
We have also made an extra effort to reach the under-represented groups of persons with disabilities, among them people with cognitive disabilities.
That is important to ensure that everyone has the information they need to vote, which is a fundamental part of democratic participation.
We have to make an extra effort to ensure that all voices are heard.