Why Disability must be systematically embedded in all International Cooperation Efforts
Guest blog by Mary Keogh*
In October 2011, CBM Ireland and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP) National University of Ireland Galway in conjunction with Dochas and the Disability Federation of Ireland organised a major conference: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities “Promoting Disability inclusion in Ireland and World”. The overarching message of the conference was that Irish International Cooperation must be inclusive and accessible to those with disabilities. The conference programme focused on good practice from around the world – including particularly USAID and AusAID.
The rationale for the conference stemmed from the need to reflect on the positive role of development aid programmes in lifting people with disabilities out of poverty and opening up new opportunities in their lives. As one conference participant commented ‘inclusion does not necessarily require more money – just that existing monies are spent smartly to avoid exclusion and to create pathways into the mainstream.”
A number of distinguished speakers addressed the conference such as Ms Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State. Ms Heumann delivered the keynote address by reaffirming that there is a need to acknowledge that disability is unquestionably a development issue. Furthermore, she highlighted that if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved then people with disabilities need to gain access to changes brought by development money and programmes.
Mr Bob McMullan who served as an MP in the Australian Labour government and who championed the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Australian governments overseas programmes also addressed the conference. Starting with what he called an imaginary country, he gave the audience some stark statistics. This country has up to 500 million people, the under 5 mortality rate is up to 80%; the school attendance is 10%; the literacy rate is 3% and the unemployment rate is up to 80%. These statistics in any country would be unacceptable from a human rights perspective. Mr McMullan went onto explain that while the country might be imaginary, the statistics are true when it comes to describing disability within a developing country.
Mr McMullan, then outlined to conference participants the 10 low cost steps that can be taken to make Aid or International Cooperation more inclusive. These steps are
Step 1 Establish reference or advisory group
Step 2 Review mainstream programmes for compatibility with CRPD obligations
Step 3 Develop strategy documents focused on rights
Step 4 Fund DPO strengthening (e.g. DRF)
Step 5 Adapt scholarship programme for PWDs
Step 6 Ensure infrastructure programmes reduce barriers
Step 7 Develop disability focus in volunteer programmes
Step 8 Establish partnerships with NGO’s
Step 9 Undertake research
Step 10 Become a global advocate for the post 2015 priorities
Other speakers at the conference included NUIG Centre for Disability Law and Policy Director Professor Gerard Quinn who described the event as pioneering at European level. CBM Ireland National Director David McAllister called for disability support to be systematically embedded in Ireland’s Overseas Budget. Mr McAllister’s final remarks concluded by stating that Ireland has an opportunity to be a leader in this field through ensuring that the Overseas Development is inclusive and accessible to those with disabilities. However this inclusion will not happen merely because of legislation or the development of discussion papers. It must be dynamically imbedded in Irish Development Policy for Overseas Development Aid.
* Mary Keogh is Advocacy Coordinator at cbm Ireland