‘Break Barriers, Open Doors’ – Disability and Development

02/12/2013 at 9:03 pm Leave a comment

Guest blog by Mary Keogh, Advocacy Coordinator, CBM Ireland and Chairperson if the Dóchas Disability and International Development Working Group (DD&IDWG)

International Disability Day has been observed by the UN since the early 1990s and over the years is has had a range of themes. 2013’s theme is ‘Break Barriers, Open Doors’ and it will be celebrated globally with a wide range of activities – you can find them listed on the UN enable website; keep an eye out for the Irish events.

Today, as part of the worldwide celebrations Plan Ireland will launch an important piece of research, which will contribute to ensuring the barriers are broken down and doors are opened so that children with disabilities can have equal access to education and protection services.

Plan Ireland’s research and other activities that have taken place this year all contribute to the realisation that including persons with disabilities is vital to ensuring that development efforts reach those who are marginalised.

This blog revisits some of the key developments in 2013, which are opening doors to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international development.

  • Firstly, earlier this year during the EU presidency, the Irish government published its ‘One World, One Future’: Irelands policy for International Development. The policy includes many references to disability (in terms of employment and essential services) and also highlights the role of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its role in delivering human rights for disabled people. The Dóchas Working Group on Disability and International Development welcomed the new policy and remains enthusiastic about the positive changes it could deliver for those living with disabilities in countries where Irish Aid deliver its programmes.
  • Secondly, at international level in September, the United Nations organised a High Level meeting on Disability and Development and this presented Governments and civil society the opportunity to discuss strategies and measures to progress the rights of disabled people living in the poorest countries. Minister Costello attended on behalf of Ireland and it was encouraging to hear him talk about disability as an important part of Irelands international cooperation.
  • Lastly, again at international level, reports published by the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda and also the UN Secretary General highlighting the importance of including persons with disabilities in the post 2015 were a very welcome development. As the discussion on the new global development framework continues, now more than ever the recognition given to disability by the process so far must be continued.

While there can be no doubt that doors are opening (mainly at a policy level), real barriers remain and must be broken down so that persons with disabilities can actively be part of and also benefit from both development and humanitarian interventions.

One area where real progress for ‘breaking down barriers’ can happen is in the area of disaster preparedness and emergency response, particularly relevant in light of recent events in the Philippines.

It is widely acknowledged that persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected during times of emergencies (be it through conflict, natural disasters etc.). For example, research indicates that during the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami the mortality rate among persons with disabilities was twice that of the rest of the population. [1]

Also, a recently published report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and Disability (based on a survey of disabled people) highlights; 71 percent of respondents have no personal preparedness plan for disasters; only 31 percent always have someone to help them evacuate; and 13 percent do not have help. [2]

A focus then for 2014 could be to take pro-active steps to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in all humanitarian and relief efforts.

So, as we celebrate International Disability Day today and the progress that has been made, it is the hope of the Dóchas Working Group on Disability and Development that the policy achievements which have been made this year are built on and that 2014 starts with a focus on breaking down barriers to fully inclusive development.

[1] UN. (2013). Panel Discussion on Disaster resilience and disability: ensuring equality and inclusion. United Nations Headquarters on October 10, 2013

[1] http://www.unisdr.org/archive/35692#!

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