February 9th, 2019 marked the day for the closing conference for “Making UPR Process an Effective Mechanism to break barriers for ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” project that was implemented by Fe-male at the beginning of the year 2018 in partnership with OHCHR and funded by the EU. The closing event took place in Beirut in the presence of 60 journalists, reporters, representatives of civil society members and associations advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities.

The conference was divided into two sessions and included a presentation of all the material produced within the framework of the project, whereby more than 75 articles, interviews, info-graphs, video-graphs, short documentaries and filmed success stories were filmed. The opening of the conference was with a panel discussion, moderated by Mr. Bassam Kantar, tackling the importance of the ratification of the international convention. The main speakers in the panel were: Dr. Moussa Charafeddine the President of Friends of Disabled People Association, Ms. Sylvana Lakkis, CEO of the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU), Mr. Fadi Al Halaby, CEO of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN), Mr. Joe Rahal, Founder of Joe Rahal Foundation, and Ms. Marianne Hakim, CEO of the Friedreich Ataxia Lebanese Association (FALA). The main issues discussed during the first session revolved around the importance of following up closely on the ratification with direct application to come up with realistic results, working on changing the attitudes and perceptions of people towards disability, the rights of living in dignity, and the necessity of urging politicians to find realistic solutions for persons with disabilities.

The second session was a panel discussion with the network of journalists and the associations in intention of developing a future work plan and proposals for completion of the work in addition to effective plans for a stable partnership between relevant associations and journalists. Interventions during this session focused on the need of conducting training workshops for journalists on the technical and legal terminology and the appropriate most sensitive styles in tackling the issue of people with disabilities and recommendations to establish a national coalition that consists of all the associations that are active in the field of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Concluding the conference, the attendees recommended the launching of a national coalition that includes all working and active associations in the field of the rights of persons with disabilities and a network of journalists to defend those rights, issuing a statement signed by the attendees for the aim of pressuring Lebanon to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, in addition to suggesting carrying out specialized workshops for journalists that focuses on the issues of disabilities.