This week at the United Nations, delegates are talking about the progress countries have made towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. It’s been almost two years since the UN agreed on 17 goals and set forth an agenda for people, planet, and prosperity. At the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) this week, 44 countries are presenting their progress towards the goals, including two of the Disability Rights Fund’s (DRF) and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund’s (DRAF) target countries – Bangladesh and Indonesia.
International disability rights advocates have been hard at work advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities to participate at the HLPF and to be counted in national reports. They want to ensure that persons with disabilities and their representative organizations are at the heart of the design, implementation, and review of the SDGS at national and international levels. You can read more about the “Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities” on the International Disability Alliance website.
Curious about what these goals and UN deliberations mean to people’s lives on the ground, DRF’s Yumi Sera interviewed DRF team members and grantees about Sustainable Development Goal 1 which seeks “to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.”
What does it mean for a person to live in extreme poverty?
Dwi Ariyani, Disability Rights Fund: Imagine — if I were a person with disability living in a rural area in a farming community in Indonesia, I would not have my own resources and would be dependent on my family for food. I can’t own any farmland. My parents won’t allow me to go to school because they’d believe that I would not benefit from education and that there are no jobs for persons with disabilities. I’d have no means of income and would be considered in the ranks of the extreme poor, living on much less than $1.25 a day. Social protection plans—meant to help those of us in these situations—may not support me. My assistive devices and basic health services would add to my costs, spiraling me further down into extreme poverty.
As a woman with disability, I would be discriminated against because of my gender and disability, facing higher rates of violence than others.
What does it look like to “end poverty”?
Medi Ssengooba, Disability Rights Fund: Persons with disabilities have the human right to live a life free from poverty. That means we need the state to help make sure that every person with a disability has the same opportunities as everyone else, enabling them to live the lives they choose. Poverty is not just about money; it is about access to opportunities and the ability to participate and make decisions.
Persons with disabilities will be lifted out of poverty when they, and their families, have equal opportunities for education and employment, access to necessary supports and services, and are included in general poverty-reduction and social protection programmes. – Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities
What has the disability movement in your country done around the SDGs?
Albert Mollah, Access Bangladesh Foundation: With the Disability Rights Fund National Coalition grant, we had a consultation with multiple disabled persons’ organizations to provide feedback to Bangladesh’s implementation of the SDGs. Bangladesh is one of the countries that will be reporting in July 2017 on progress and challenges related to the goals at the HLPF. To support the goal to end poverty for persons with disabilities, we presented these recommendations to our government (read the full report):
• Include persons with disabilities in all safety net programs
• Raise awareness among duty bearers about the abilities of persons with disabilities
• Track the data of persons with disabilities living under the poverty line
• Ensure access and disability inclusion to infrastructure and information
• Implement the Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act 2013 and Neuro-Developmental Trust Act 2013
• Engage DPOs in the SDGs implementation process
• Strengthen coordination of Government and non-government actors
Risnawati Utami, OHANA (Indonesia): In the last few years, disabled persons’ organizations have built trust between government and civil society. The movement advocated for the new Persons with Disabilities Act which was passed in 2016. DPOs also work at the local and grassroots level so that persons with disabilities, especially those who live in rural provinces, are integrated into local level planning and budgets. However, our biggest challenge has been the lack of disaggregated data on disability especially in rural provinces to make the case to policymakers.
As a movement, we are determined to make sure that we “leave no one behind”– whether you are a woman with a disability, a youth or child with a disability, or an Indigenous person. We must try extra hard to not leave behind those who are most marginalized by society, such as persons who are isolated because of a psychosocial disability, a migrant worker who has come home with a disability, or an elderly person who has been disabled due to being left behind during a disaster.
With DRF’s support, persons with disabilities have been able to participate at the decision-making table. We’re moving from being objects to being subjects in the development process.
Ambrose Murangira, Uganda National Association of the Deaf: Uganda reported their progress on the SDGs at the HLPF in 2016. We were not able to provide feedback to their initial report because of the timing with Uganda’s general elections. But with DRF’s support, I still participated in the HLPF discussions in New York last year and learned so much about the process! When I returned to Uganda, I worked with other advocates to build momentum and mobilize persons with disabilities to participate in discussions that could change their lives for the better. We are speaking up for our rights in technical working groups so that government services can be more attuned to our needs and rights. Now, NGOs that provide programs and services for poverty reduction are starting to listen to us.
What still needs to happen to ensure no one is left behind?
Pratima Gurung, representing women with disabilities from Nepal speaking on behalf of the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities: The process of generating rigorous, quality, and open disaggregated data and information must be in place and practiced. Without disaggregated data, we will not be able to monitor progress towards, or achieve, Agenda 2030. Governments need to ensure data disaggregation not only by age, disability, and gender but also by ethnicity, caste and origin.
Interviewees across the different regions agreed that valid, reliable, and relevant data on persons with disabilities is essential to understand the numbers and environmental factors that surround persons with disabilities. Data can inform policies and programs intended to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities. For disabled persons’ organizations, having data helps support advocacy for the rights of persons with disabilities to ensure that no one is left behind.
About the Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund
Since 2008, we have given out over $20 million more than 300 different Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) across 34 countries in the developing world to do advocacy, using the CRPD. As of 2016, our funding includes a focus on participation of the disability community in SDG implementation at national and sub-national levels. By the end of 2016, 83 grants (or 84% of all grants) were linked to advancing SDG goals, with 19 grantees doing direct advocacy to governments or civil society actors to include persons with disabilities in SDG processes, and 64 doing work towards achievement of SDG Goals 4 on education; 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions; 1 on poverty and 10 on inequalities; and 5 on gender equality.