The Global Goals could change the world for millions of people with disabilities
This week in New York, the Sustainable Development Goals will be finalised. This is a historic moment for CBM and other civil society organisations as world leaders come together to agree on 17 goals and 169 targets that aim to transform the world we live in over the next 15 years.
The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were agreed in 2000 and come to an end this year.
The SDGs mark a huge shift from the MDGs in a number of ways. The MDGs were largely designed by a small number of individuals from high income countries. Discussions on the SDGs have included governments from low, middle and high income countries, civil society and more than 8 million people from 194 countries have had a say through online and face to face surveys. The MDGs only applied to low and middle income countries, while the SDGs are universal and apply to everyone.
In most cases the MDGs were about getting half way, for example halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. The SDGs are much more ambitious, they are about ending extreme poverty – finishing the job.
The other major difference is that disability wasn’t mentioned in the MDGs, which has led to people with disabilities being excluded from their progress. The number of children going to primary school for example has increased dramatically, but children with disabilities are much less likely to attend than their non-disabled peers. In Nepal for example, 85% of children who are out of school have a disability.
For several years CBM and our partners have been advocating for the SDGs to address this exclusion and to be inclusive of people with disabilities.
So we are therefore really pleased that SDGs promise to ‘Leave no one behind’ and to reach the furthest behind first. Disability is referenced 11 times in the new document. This includes making sure that all children can get an education, that people with disabilities have equal access to decent jobs and that they can participate on an equal basis with others in society. Many of the targets are also universal – which means that they have to be met for everyone, including people with disabilities.
Sometimes the discussions that happen between world leaders in New York can seem a million miles away from our everyday lives or the work we do. But reality is that the SDGs have the potential to have a huge impact on people’s lives around the world. They will determine what governments at both a national and local level prioritise, and where they spend their money.
We need to see the SDGs as a huge opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. They can get people and governments talking seriously about reducing inequalities and promoting social justice. They are a chance to make governments realise the importance of including people with disabilities in their policies and planning. They are also an important advocacy tool for people living with disabilities – who can take the document to their governments and argue for their inclusion.
When the goals are agreed at the end of this week a new challenge will begin; translating their ambition into action. CBM and our partners will continue working to make sure this ambition is realised. If we can grab the opportunities that the SDGs give us then we should all, including people with disabilities, be living in a much better world by 2030.