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Putting people with disabilities at the heart of development


From 25th to 27th September 2015, States are meeting at the United Nations in New York to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for the period 2015-2030. This marks a decisive turning point in the lives of people with disabilities worldwide, who will now be taken into account in development policies from which they have long been excluded. Handicap International’s awareness raising and advocacy actions have helped bring about this considerable advance.

Bouachanh Douangharath, 27, has a stall selling snacks in Nakhoui village, Laos.

Bouachanh Douangharath, 27, has a stall selling snacks in Nakhoui village. The local school children particularly like her "blue shiny ice". Laos. | © Till Mayer / Handicap International

In 2000, the UN set out a 15-year global development framework. Called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this programme has brought about a considerable reduction in global poverty and hunger: the under-5 child death rate has been cut by more than half since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 1.8 billion to 800 million between 1999 and 2015 and, since 1990, there has been a 45% drop in the global maternal mortality rate.

The MDGs made one glaring omission, however, by completely ignoring the needs of people with disabilities - therefore excluding 15% of the global population from development policies. This was clearly unfair, especially since 80% of people with disabilities around the world live in poverty.

Leave no one behind

This anomaly has now been addressed. With the deadline set to achieve the MDGs expiring this year, the leaders gathering at the UN in New York between 25th and 27th September will commit themselves to a new 15-year global development programme, based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This time round, the goals will take into account people with disabilities, particularly in four areas: education, equality, inclusive employment and urbanisation. This is an historic advance.

In the future, any country wishing to implement or finance a development project must ensure the needs of people with disabilities are taken into account. This means that those who know their needs best, people with disabilities themselves, will at last be consulted by authorities implementing development programmes.

For example, in the field of education and training, which must be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, all school construction programmes must include facilities accessible to people with disabilities. States will also commit themselves to developing school programmes addressed at children with disabilities. The SDGs will bring an end to urbanisation policies which ignore the accessibility needs of people with disabilities, and employment policies from which they are excluded.

Recognition for Handicap International’s work

The SDGs show that Handicap International’s messages on the inclusion of people with disabilities have been heard by the international community. It is a wonderful endorsement of the organisation and its work alongside disabled people for more than thirty years.

Handicap International has run programmes aimed at improving the social inclusion of people with disabilities in developing countries - inclusive employment for people with disabilities, the training of health professionals in disability issues, the use of school equipment in Braille for visually impaired people, the presence of sign language interpreters for people with hearing impairments, the building of access ramps, etc. – for many years and its expertise is now indispensable.

Funding bodies and authorities in many countries must now, for the first time, pay attention to disability issues. Handicap International is preparing to help them put together development programmes so that people with disabilities can play a full role in their societies.

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