Inclusive Leadership Programs: Advancing Disability Rights in the Transatlantic Context
Disability rights constitute a key element of the inclusion agenda for transatlantic partners. One in five Americans live with a disability and most will face disability in their lifetimes; likewise in the European Union, approximately 80 million people currently have a disability. In the context of inclusive leadership requirements of the 21st century, GMF’s Transatlantic Leadership Initiatives (TLI) team continues to connect with stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic in support of disability rights. Most recently on April 8, the German Marshall Fund hosted a leadership, diversity, and inclusion best practices exchange titled “The Digital Frontier: Widening Access for People with Disability” to share innovative, inclusive leadership strategies across the Atlantic. Discussions were wide ranging, centered around the theme of digital access including legal frameworks and technological advances to serve this growing cohort. Distinguished Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF) Alumni Gary C. Norman, Esq. L.L.M., Co-founder of the Mid-Atlantic Lyceum and its Mid-Atlantic Journal on Law and Public Policy, put forward the concept, designed the agenda, and brought respected stakeholders to the table for the April 8 convening. Gary traveled as an MMF in 2008 with his guide dog, Pilot.
GMF looks forward to the participation this year in the Marshall Memorial Fellowship of Kerry Thompson, who currently serves as a Program Associate at the Disability Rights Fund, a non-profit that works with disabled-persons organizations in the developing world to advance the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A rising young leader who is deaf blind, Kerry will be engaged in leadership training in Europe in the upcoming MMF cohort. In March 2014 in Brussels, GMF was also honored to host two rising young disability activists in the context of GMF’s Young Professionals Summit at the major policy convening, Brussels Forum: Amy Camilleri Zahra of Malta who advocates for accessibility in Europe (in addition to her advocacy work, Amy, as a double amputee, is able to serve as a leadership role model for young people with disability); and Medi Ssengooba, Africa Program Officer at the Boston-based Disability Rights Fund. GMF welcomes participants with disability in its programs across policy fields. For example, alumnus Alexander Dörrbecker came to the U.S. through GMF as an American Political Science Association Fellow in 2008/2009, where he spent 10 months working on the House Judiciary Committee. A lawyer by training, who is also blind, he works for the German Ministry of Justice. Alex specializes in commercial law with a focus on corruption, internet, and environmental law, and has published widely on the U.S. constitution and legal system.
Overall, GMF strives to provide an inclusive community comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds in order to promote and maintain an environment of intellectual inquiry and dialogue rich in outlooks and perspectives. As with other organizations with this commitment, we continue to move forward on our "diversity journey", and to learn along the way. Close to two years ago, GMF initiated the “Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion Program” within TLI, and GMF has since been making strides in terms of program content, working consistently to move diversity and inclusion up on the transatlantic policy agenda.