In less than a years’ time, heads of state will come together in a summit and agree upon the global development agenda for the foreseeable future, in one fell swoop determining the fate of millions of disabled children around the world.
Tomorrow the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPwD) will be celebrating its 22nd year and as the international community gears up to finalise negotiations on the new development agenda in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the day is more important than ever. Particularly, in light of the day’s subtheme of inclusive development which has specific implications for children and their families.
When making a case for disability inclusive development the figures speak for themselves. Over a billion people in the world have some form of impairment (WHO), 80% of disabled people live in developing countries (UNDP) and up to a staggering 98% of disabled children remain out of school (UNESCO).
Even so, the mainstream development agenda of the past 15 years has persistently overlooked or sidelined issues of disability or more worryingly, included disability as a tokenistic afterthought to its rational. Indeed, disabled people are not mentioned in any of the 8 goals or 21 targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and less than 1% of aid currently targets the needs of older people or disabled people (Handicap International).
This year the IDPwD has an opportunity to once and for all focus global attention onto issues of disability and to ensure that disability inclusive development is fully mainstreamed in any post-2015 development agenda that emerges.
I was recently surprised when a well-educated, well-informed group of friends responded to the fact that disabled people represent the world’s largest minority with scepticism and incredulity. We need to combat this public detachment from the issue and treat this year’s IDPwP as a unique opportunity to rally the wider-public in holding global decision makers accountable to the rights and needs of disabled children. Indeed, in order to publicly expose the barriers that children people face and demand recognition of these barriers in a global development discourses, this year we must shout louder.
It is worth noting that the IDPwP has particular significance this year as it is the fourth year in a row that the day has chosen to put emphasis on inclusiveness. Last week I attended a workshop on disability and inclusive development and it was noted by the group, many of whom were disabled individuals from the South themselves, that societies remain non-inclusive of disabled people due to entrenched attitudinal stigma or ignorance towards disability that generates institutional or physical barriers to inclusion..
A discussion on inclusiveness in IDPwD’s sub-themes means that, it is not enough for international decision makers to just be aware of disability or to conceive of disability as purely a physical impairment. The debate demands recognition of the social and cultural mechanisms that, exclude a disabled person from everyday life.
The current SDGs Working Group paper sets out 17 Goals, with 169 specific targets. Due to the hard work of organisations who have been advocating for the inclusion of disabled people, including AbleChildAfrica, these Goals make five mentions of disability. Nevertheless, there is still work to be done and the proposed goals are likely to go through numerous alterations before the summit next year. My hope is that this year’s IDPwD will make the most of a unique opportunity to impact the development agenda and that next year disability and inclusive development will be fully embedded within each goal and target that will shape the next era of development.
AbleChildAfrica will be engaging with the debate on the day and urges anyone interested in disability and development to do the same. Tomorrow, we will be taking questions in a live Twitter chat from 12-2pm GMT and welcome any questions or thoughts. Just use the hashtag #ACAchat and tweet @ablechildafrica to join the discussion.