Is disability emerging as an international rights issue?
‘We want equal rights with other people, nothing more.’ – Mosharraf Hossein, ADD Bangladesh.
People with disabilities are speaking up at an international meeting in Monrovia, Liberia this week. A group of global leaders on development (the ‘High-level Panel’) are meeting here to discuss the replacement framework for the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed in 2000 and expire in 2015. This framework will guide national and international efforts for development over the next few decades, so it is very important that people with disabilities’ rights, needs and aspirations are central.
In 2000 people with disabilities were completely absent from the discussions, and the final framework did not mention disability at all, despite the fact that people with disabilities make up 15% of the global population – 1 in 7 people – and are disproportionately more likely to be among the very poorest than non-disabled people. But there are signs that things might be different this time around. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, the host of the meeting, told us that people with disabilities need to be central to the new framework, and she was only one of many panel members who were clear that the framework needs to include us.
One of the most encouraging things from this week’s meetings is that disability is being talked about by people other than the ‘usual suspects’. The youth and children’s groups present consistently spoke about the needs of young people with disabilities, with one 12 year-old girl movingly calling for more teachers trained in sign language so deaf children can communicate in school.
The disability movement globally has put together a ‘position paper’ on the post-2015 framework, which calls for:
- A goal on equality and non-discrimination, with a target within this goal on inclusive development, to ensure the equal participation of people with disabilities in country development policies, programmes, and processes and international cooperation for development;
- The framework to require that data collected to monitor the achievement of every goal be disaggregated by disability and age, to allow monitoring of equal progress and challenging exclusion; and
- Social protection to be included, ensuring that housing and social services are accessible to people with disabilities.
Julia Modern, Action on Disability and Development.