Friday, May 16, 2014

World Human Rights Cities Forum 2014 -- Day 2

large group of people on stage with steps leading down from center of stage
Group shot after Opening Session on May 16
Today was the second full day at the World Human Rights Cities Forum in Gwangju, South Korea.  The morning started with breakfast, where I sat down next to a man who is a participant in the conference.  I've never been much of a talker, but I did my best to start some conversation with him.  We had met briefly the evening before on the elevator.  My conversation attempts fell flat though.  While we sat, he got four times in a short space of minutes to get more food at the buffet.  It's not like he filled the plate each time, but he got up a lot.  The fifth time he got up, he didn't return.  He left without saying good bye. 

I'll let it go.  At the Plenary Session that morning, he was a speaker.  Maybe his mind was on his speech.  The morning was Welcoming Sessions and Plenary Session.  The afternoon was another plenary session, a break out group, and an informal meeting of disability groups and advocates.

It's interesting to travel half way around the world and hear things that mimic issues in the United States.  In the morning session, a woman spoke the Brazil 2016 Olympics, and the displacement of people to make way from the construction of stadiums.  The city now has thousands more homeless people while there are hundreds of thousands of unoccupied housing units.  This was like Chicago during the 2016 Bid.  Groups opposed to the bid warned of the same displacement issues, and in Chicago there is an issue of unoccupied Chicago Housing Authority Units.  In the afternoon, I sat in on part of a session called Cities and Violence, which privatization as a form of violence.  A woman from Japan talked about the privatization of the Japanese workforce, how more and more the ranks of full-time employees are giving way to part-time contractual workers.  The contractual workers struggle more and more to earn a living because companies are low balling bids in order to land the contracts.  Similar to stories I hear in the United States about contractual workers.  And in the meeting with the disability community, stories out of Korea and Brazil regarding transportation, health care assistance and design echoed the United States. 

image of large group of police on right, pepper spraying protesters on left of frame
Bus Protest in Seoul, South Korea on April 20
One of the best parts of the day was meeting up again with a man named Kyung-seok Park, an advocate who visited Chicago and Access Living in 2002.  He runs a group called Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination.  They've led successful campaign against inaccessible transit in South Korea, and now work on transportation, asset, and personal assistant issues.  Last month they protested against the inaccessibility of bus lines that run between cities in Korea.  They staged the protest on April 20, which is Disabled Persons Day in South Korea.  The police were waiting for them with pepper spray. 

The working relationship between SADD and the Independent Living Centers in Korea appear to be similar to that between Access Living and ADAPT.  ADAPT does more of the civil disobedience, direct action work, while Access Living supports ADAPT's effort and works more through legislative and legal channels.

Tomorrow afternoon I give my presentation on Independent Living in Chicago. 

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