Category Archives: Post-2015
The ability to read and write is hugely powerful. Women who can read have fewer children later in life, and the children they do have are much more likely to survive. Being literate helps people to find jobs, access information and make decisions about their lives.
Today, on International Literacy Day (8th September), we think about the 781 million adults who cannot read, write or count, and about what needs to be done to make sure that they have the opportunities to gain these valuable skills.
While the data is poor, we know that people with disabilities often have lower levels of literacy than people without disabilities. This is hardly surprising when you consider that in developing countries, as many as 9 out of 10 children with disabilities do not go to school.
In the last 15 years there has been a huge global effort to get more children enrolled in primary school. This has led to a drop in the number of children out of school from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million today. While this progress is huge, many children with disabilities have been left behind. In many low and middle income countries, having a disability more than doubles the chance of a child not going to school. In Nepal for example, 85% of children out of school have a disability.
If they do attend school, children living with disabilities are often more likely to drop out and leave school early. They are also less likely to be able to learn – because schools are not correctly equipped, teachers are not trained or because they are discriminated against. Often getting children in to school and making sure they have the opportunity to learn vital skills such as reading and writing involves small changes; in teaching methods, in physical accessibility or even just in attitude.
Illiteracy among adults with disabilities is even more prevalent than among children, because those who are adults today were less likely to attend school that today’s children. To address this, adult literacy programmes need to be inclusive of people with disabilities. More broadly, we need to make sure that information is provided in alternative formats so that those who are unable to read can still access it.
Goal 4 in the new Sustainable Development Goals recognises the importance of inclusive education and promotes learning for all, including lifelong learning. This is a huge step forward and an important opportunity to ensure that people with disabilities have the same chance to become literate as their non-disabled peers. CBM is advocating that in the indicators that measure the new goals school enrolment is broken down by disability. Because only when we have good data about how many children with disabilities are not in school will we really be able to reach them all. We are also advocating for an indicator on the number of trained teachers to teach children with special educational needs; because getting children into school is not enough.
We often talk about the cycle of poverty and disability, the fact that disability causes poverty, and poverty causes disability. Literacy is one way of breaking this cycle – because when people learn to read and write they are more able to participate in society and have the power to change their own lives.
On 9-11 February, I was part of a group in New York, USA, advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development framework. Orsolya Bartha (The International Disability Alliance) and I were quite fortunate this week to collaborate with Andrew Griffiths from Sightsavers who is also an Executive Committee Co-Chair of Beyond 2015.
Beyond 2015 is a global civil society campaign, pushing for a strong and legitimate post-2015 development framework. In NY, we work closely with Beyond 2015 in our joint advocacy as civil society stakeholders at the United Nations. More than 1000 organisations participate in Beyond 2015 from more than 130 countries representing 41 countries in Africa, 29 countries in Asia and the Pacific, 35 countries in Europe, 2 countries in North America and 26 countries in Latin America. CBM International, CBM Australia, CBM Canada and CBM UK are all participating organisations in Beyond 2015.
We met with an array of Member States, including: Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, the People’s Republic of China, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, and the United Kingdom. We received strong support for the inclusion of persons with disabilities from these meetings. In addition, once again we were told that persons with disabilities are a very strong advocacy group at the UN. Specifically, Brazil stated that persons with disabilities are the most organised of all advocacy groups at the UN. Thank you, Brazil!
We were particularly positive about meeting with the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the UN since it is the first time we had the opportunity to meet with this important Member State. The People’s Republic of China is very supportive of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development process, in particular in areas of poverty eradication, employment, health, and education. In our meeting we learnt that there are approximately 88 million persons with disabilities living in China and that the China Disabled Persons’ Federation is quite active and collaborates with the government. Specifically, Peng Liyuan, the wife of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, has called for a “more just, tolerant and sustainable environment for the development of disabled people.”
In addition to the afore-mentioned post-2015 events, the 53rd Session of the Commission for Social Development also took place in NY on 4-13 February. Member States that explicitly referenced persons with disabilities include: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, the EU, Finland, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Sweden, and Viet Nam. I had the lovely opportunity to speak with Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities who gave a fantastic presentation at the session. Watch the video of Ms. Devandas’ presentation. We greatly look forward to working with you in the coming months and years!
Elizabeth Lockwood is CBM’s UN Advocacy Officer based in New York. Elizabeth focuses on developing advocacy strategies to raise awareness, network, build capacity, and lobby for the rights of persons with disabilities at the UN level in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Inclusive Development. This post first appeared on the CBM International blog.
Even in a ‘developed’ country like the UK, disabled people are more likely to be poor than the able-bodied. Government figures show that about 20% of British families with at least one disabled member live in relative poverty compared to only 15% of other families.
There are two key reasons for this. Firstly, disability is an expensive business. Most significantly disabled people face extra costs due to their impairment. They may need to buy specialist equipment, they may have to carry out more laundry, they may need to use taxis because of inaccessible public transport or they may require an extra room to accommodate a personal assistant.
Secondly, it can be hard for disabled people to find paid work. Although there has been some progress, disabled people are still more likely to be unemployed than their non-disabled counterparts. While more than three-quarters of the British working-age non-disabled population are in employment, less than 50% of working-age disabled people have a job. As a result, many disabled people have to rely on benefits and, not surprisingly, have difficulty making ends meet.
I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to obtain employment. After graduating, I spent six months out of work and had to apply for more than 40 jobs before I managed to persuade an employer to recruit me. This was despite having a degree from Cambridge University and a postgraduate diploma. Fifteen years later, I have a rewarding, well-paid job. Like millions of other people, I have to cope with the daily challenges of living with a disability. However, I’m one of the lucky ones. At least I don’t have to cope with poverty as well.
A research report from the International Centre on Evidence in Disability (ICED) formed the basis of a discussion today with the UN Committee of Experts on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It was a pleasure for me to facilitate a dialogue between the Committee and Dr Hannah Kuper, co-director of the ICED at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on their recent research report ’The costs of exclusion and the gains of inclusion of persons with disabilities‘.
The first part of the research provides the evidence of the link between poverty and disability, described by Dr Kuper as ‘strong as the evidence between lung cancer and smoking’.
The second part of the research looks at three sectors, namely; health, education and employment, providing evidence from low and middle income countries on the costs of exclusion and the gains of inclusion of persons with disabilities…
Did you know that In Bangladesh, reductions in wage earnings attributed to lower levels of education among people with disabilities and their child caregivers were estimated to cost the economy US$54 million per year?
Or that the inclusion of people with sensory or physical impairments in schools in Nepal was estimated to generate wage returns of 20%?
Read more of this wonderful research, and disseminate it to the people who listen to economic arguments, but always ask for the evidence!
On Sunday 21 September, more than 300,000 marchers flooded the streets of New York City making it the largest climate change march in history and putting this important issue on the top of the global agenda. In addition, in conjunction to the opening of the 69th UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the UN Climate Summit on Tuesday, 23 September. It was lovely timing since it was also the Fall Equinox (Spring Equinox for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere – !Hola Uruguay!)
Due to this high-level event, climate change has been a pervasive topic at the UN and in NYC and this theme will continue to be important as the post-2015 development agenda progresses. One example is that the newly appointed President of General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, will hold a High-level Event on Combating Climate Change in June 2015.
With this increased emphasis on climate change and related disaster risk reduction (DRR) – in the post-2015 process, it is crucial that persons with disabilities are included in these conversations, debates and initiatives. Why is this important?
It is important because weather-related disasters are increasing in number and severity and the number of people affected by them has risen. Disasters and their aftermath have a huge impact on persons with disabilities who are among the most vulnerable in an emergency, sustaining disproportionately higher rates of morbidity and mortality, and at the same time being among those least able to access emergency support. For example, research indicates that the mortality rate among persons with disabilities was twice that of the rest of the population during the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami (UN, 2013). Moreover, for every person that dies during a disaster, it is estimated that three people sustain an injury, many causing long-term disabilities, such as the case in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake in which approximately 200,000 people are expected to live with long-term disabilities as a result of injuries (UN Enable, 2013).
Persons with disabilities are often forgotten, and most likely to be abandoned during disasters (DiDRRN, 2013)as well as more likely to be invisible and overlooked in emergency relief operations (Choy, 2009). When the emergency hits they may have difficulty reaching safe areas, become separated from family and friends which is a key to survival and coping, have trouble accessing vital emergency information, or lose assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, prostheses, white canes or hearing aids. In addition, moving and transferring persons with disabilities requires handling techniques to avoid injury or further injury. Yet, the first-ever UN global survey of persons living with disabilities and how they cope with disasters indicates that the percentage of those with disabilities who could evacuate with no difficulty almost doubles if they were given sufficient time. This underlines the importance of early warning systems and ensuring that warnings reach all members of the community regardless of any mobility or communication barriers (UNISDR, 2013).
For the few who are evacuated, shelters are not accessible and consequently survivors with disabilities are also excluded from the emergency responses: including food, basic needs and health support. In addition, in the aftermath of a disaster, the damage to infrastructure caused by extreme weather events can reduce or completely remove access and safe mobility. Inclusive practice in all relief operations is needed to ensure that response and service delivery is not fragmented but mindful of all sources of vulnerability (Kett & Scherrer, 2009).
- Strong advocacy by and with persons with disabilities is needed to ensure disability inclusion is a key criterion in all emergency relief operations
- The evidence base concerning the vulnerability of persons with disabilities in weather-related emergencies, and key factors, which create resilience, need to be greatly strengthened, with key messages disseminated.
- Evaluations of both emergency and development programmes, in areas affected by a changing climate, need to clearly include disability in their terms of reference.
- Early warning systems need to ensure that warnings reach all members of the community, including persons with disabilities regardless of mobility or communication barriers.
- In the reconstruction phase following severe weather and other emergencies, it is essential that universal accessibility standards are applied in all public buildings and spaces, water and sanitation points and for the homes where people with mobility disabilities live.
Choy, R. (2009). Disasters are always inclusive: Vulnerability in humanitarian crises, Development Bulletin, Special Issue No. 73, April 2009, Development Studies Network, ANU, Canberra.
DiDRRN. (2013) Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Simulation Exercise. From: www. didrrn.net/home/
Kett, M and Scherrer, V. (2009). The Impact of Climate Change on People with Disabilities. Report of e-discussion hosted by The Global Partnership for Disability & Development (GPDD) and The World Bank (Human Development Network – Social Protection/Disability & Development Team).
UN. (2013). Panel Discussion on Disaster resilience and disability: ensuring equality and inclusion. United Nations Headquarters on October 10, 2013.
UN Enable. (2013). Disability, natural disasters and emergency situations: A need to include persons with disabilities. From: www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1546
UNISDR. (2013, October 10). UN Global Survey Explains Why So Many People Living with Disabilities Die in Disasters. [Press release 2013/29].
Below is a list of upcoming events at the UN Headquarters in NYC. I will be attending many of these events and will blog about them throughout the autumn. Click on the titles for additional information.
This one-day High-level Forum will take place on 9 September at the UN Headquarters. It will comprise of an opening segment and two multi-stakeholder interactive panels and a brief closing segment. The two panels will focus on: (1) the role and contributions of women and the young to the Culture of Peace; and (2) global citizenship as a pathway to the Culture of Peace.
In preparation for the negotiation phase of the post-2015 development agenda during the 69th session, the President of the General Assembly is convening a High-Level Stocktaking Event to reflect upon the various post-2015 development-related processes, which have occurred during the current session of the General Assembly. The purpose is to provide Member States and other stakeholders with an opportunity to identify possible inputs to the Secretary-General’s synthesis report, to the work of the 69th session of the General Assembly, and to the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda itself.
The first session of the Preparatory Committee of the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will take place in NY. The deadline for registration/accreditation is 31 August 2014. Click here for registration details.
16 September-1 October: 69th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 69)
The 69th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 69) will convene at the UN Headquarters on Tuesday, 16 September and the General Debate will open on Wednesday, 24 September. The debate’s opening was postponed from Tuesday, 23 September to accommodate the Climate Summit (resolution A/RES/57/301 and decision 68/512).
Sam Kutesa, UN General Assembly (UNGA) president-elect (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda), has announced that the theme for the 69th UNGA session will be “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda.” UN Member States will be invited to comment on the theme during the 69th General Debate (beginning on 24 September 2014). Kutesa will be replacing the current UNGA President John Ashe.
Civil Society Participation in UNGA 69:
Because of the presence of high-level ministers and dignitaries at the UNGA69, civil society participation is very difficult. Civil society can attend the high-level meeting of the GA, which this year is: 22-23 September: The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
Unfortunately, to attend the UN Climate Summit meetings is by invitation only, but many climate-related events will take place throughout the week of 22-28 September. Supposedly there will be a mass protest for climate change somewhere in NYC, which I hope to attend.
Please keep tuned for additional information regarding these upcoming events, how they impact persons with disabilities around the globe, and CBM’s involvement.