THE BLOG

A Massive Step Forward and a Wakeup Call to Include People With Disabilities

06/08/2015 00:09 BST | Updated 05/08/2016 10:59 BST

The outcome of the Post 2015 intergovernmental negotiations at the UN - a document setting out the global approach to the next 15 years of development - stands us on the brink of history. "Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" finally delivers a consensus that disability must be mainstreamed into development policy internationally. Crucially, it provides a powerful tool that people with disabilities can use nation by nation to argue for their inclusion.

We see this as a massive step forward; a wakeup call to the international community and to governments, that inclusion of people with disabilities is a principle, not an afterthought.

If development efforts do not have the inclusion of people with disabilities as a specific focus, they will often fail to make even small adjustments or efforts to effectively reach people with disabilities. Having disability as such a strong focus in so many national policy areas within this document, such as employment, education and transport, gives clear direction for development planners and thinkers. And disability communities in countries across the world can now more effectively argue for their own inclusion; i.e. "you signed up to this global call, let us help you to make good on it."

Decision makers in New York will have felt the pressure to getting things passed and move to the next stage in negotiations - this often means that a lot of specifics get cut or watered down. For example, using "marginalised groups" or "vulnerable populations" to replace lists of specific groups with histories of exclusion and marginalisation. This hasn't happened with the SDGs.

Why is nuance of language so critical? Because we have clear evidence of people with disabilities being left out of the Millennium Development Goals as a consequence - left behind from their peers who benefitted from, for example, primary education and employment progress.

It is far more effective to include people with disabilities at the start of a programme or policy shift, as within the SDGs, than to retrofit change that has already happened to try and make it inclusive.

Next we need to see the governments of the world agree this ambitious text at the UN's General Assembly in September and ensure that what gets agreed, gets implemented.

We'll be there in New York to see this happen, to mark the occasion and to galvanise the energy, efforts and partnerships that will be needed to achieve these goals together in coming years.

Once all the noise has died down after the global leaders assemble, but before the hard graft of implementation begins, Sightsavers will continue to advocate for improvements to the indicators for the framework, to ensure better data is available to measure this progress, and to adjust efforts that aren't being effective.

We've already started to imagine alongside our supporters a different world in 2030, one where people with disabilities are included as a matter of course, not as an add-on. A world where children with disabilities receive an education that enables them to unlock their full potential and where adults with disabilities can achieve their utmost contribution towards the economic development of their countries. A world where people with disabilities have the same access to health, the law, banks and sports stadiums as everyone else.

Last weekend the development community took huge strides towards this more inclusive world. When the ink hits the paper in New York in September, let's take a moment to celebrate all we've achieved to make these goals what we hoped they would be. And then let's keep striding on with determination until we reach them.