Dorodi Sharma - OSD to Chairperson, Disabled People's International (DPI)

Since the past two years, there has been a lot of buzz regarding the post-2015 development agenda and the inclusion of disability. Much has been written and spoken since the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012 running up to the High Level Meeting on Disability & Development (HLMDD) on September 23, 2013. The Outcome Document External Website that opens in a new window of HLMDD underlines the importance of inclusion of disability in national & international development strategies for realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); inclusion of disability in the mechanisms leading up to the post-2015 development agenda and for the need to include people with disabilities in these discourses. However, the commitment of the international community to genuinely address the disconnect between disability issues and development seemed missing just 2 days after the HLMDD. The Special Event on MDGs on September 25, 2013 did not find much impetus on disability. Although the Outcome Document of the Special Event (198 KB) PDF File that opens in a new window Opens in a new window talks about inclusivity; making MDGs and post-2015 a reality for those that have been left behind; and puts special emphasis on cross-cutting issues and multiplier effect; it does not mention disability.

After September 2013, there seems to have been a lull. Not much information has come forward from international organisations working on main streaming of disability in the post-2015 development agenda. This paper is an effort to sum up what has happened so far and the steps from now till the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.

Developments so far

The first significant milestone in the post-2015 discourse was the Rio+20 Summit External Website that opens in a new window in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The outcome document titled 'Future We Want' contained a clear focus towards sustainable development. It was agreed to work towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will build upon MDGs and integrate into the post-2015 development agenda.

In June 2012, the Secretary General's High Level Panel (HLP) External Website that opens in a new window of eminent persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda was constituted. This HLP had several consultations and came out with their report External Website that opens in a new window called 'A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development', in May 2013.

This was followed by the Secretary General's report (98.2 KB) PDF File that opens in a new window Opens in a new window titled 'A life of dignity for all: accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015' in August 2013.

Disability in the post-2015 processes so far

While it is true that disability did find mention in the Rio+20 Outcome Document and the HLP Report, it is critical to look at the mentions in light of the bigger picture. There was no mention of disability at significant places such as goals, targets and indicators. It wasn't underlined that disability is a cross-cutting issue, like gender, and has a multiplier effect. The inter linkages between disability and inequalities were neither addressed nor highlighted. It would therefore, be safe to assume that the mentions were cursory at best.

It also needs to be said here that the disability movement did make enough efforts to ensure that the issues of the 1 billion people with disabilities are included in the discourse leading up to 2015. This is evident from the fact that there was tremendous excitement in the global disability movement in the run up to HLMDD. However, post September the discourse seems to have lost steam. While, it is true that at the international front things are still churning, it is also equally true that there has been an obvious communication failure with the national disability movements.

From now till 2015

The question that many are asking now is what are the steps from now till then? There are two mechanisms that are currently in motion. These are:

Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

The Open Working Group External Website that opens in a new window on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG) was formed in January 2013 as an intergovernmental mechanism to come out with a set of SDGs. It has a total of 30 seats External Website that opens in a new window, which means that a number of Member States share seats. The OWG has had 4 Sessions so far. In the first Session in March, H.E. CsabaKõrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, and H.E. MachariaKamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya were elected as co-chairs of OWG.

As the entire focus of the world community was directed towards HLP and the subsequent High Level Meeting on Disability & Development and the Special Event on MDGs, the Sessions of the OWG did not get widely publicised.

The sessions of the OWG are working to conceptualise SDGs and are having thematic discussions. The second Session in April was on conceptualising the SDGs and poverty eradication. The third Session in May was on food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation and drought; and water and sanitation. The fourth Session in June was on employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture; and health and population dynamics.

OWG will have a total of 8 Sessions. The fifth Session (November 25-27) is on sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial system and external debt sustainability),infrastructure development and industrialization; and energy.

The sixth Session (December 9-13) will be on means of implementation (science and technology, knowledge-sharing and capacity building); global partnership for achieving sustainable development; and needs of countries in special situations, African countries, LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS as well as specific challenges facing the middle-income countries.

The seventh Session (January 6-10, 2014) will be on sustainable cities and human settlements, sustainable transport, sustainable consumption and production (including chemicals and waste); and climate change and disaster risk reduction.

The eighth and final Session (February 3-7, 2014) will be on Oceans and seas, forests, biodiversity; promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women's empowerment; conflict prevention, post-conflict peace building and the promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance.

A Technical Support Team has also prepared briefs External Website that opens in a new window on each of these themes.

Major groups and other stakeholders will feed into this process. Based on the discussions and inputs, the OWG will come out with a proposal for Sustainable Development Goals that will be presented to the 69th General Assembly in September 2014.

High Level Political Forum

The first meeting of the High Level Political Forum External Website that opens in a new window was held on September 24, 2013. Heads of States and high-ranking dignitaries attended this meeting to underline their commitment to continue action on sustainable development at the highest levels. However, it is yet not clear as to how the modalities of this Forum will work and how, if at all, civil society can feed into this process.

The final post-2015 development agenda: Once the OWG submits its proposal in September 2014, all processes that have happened so far will be converged. This includes the HLP recommendations, the Secretary General's Report, the World We Want surveys, the OWG proposal, etc. There are probabilities that other consultations may be organised before September 2014 by the UN, but nothing concrete has been heard or seen so far. From September 2014 till 2015, the onus will be on the Member States to discuss, debate and finally arrive at a development framework for 2015-2030.

Role of the grass roots disability movement

The discourse on inclusion of disability in the post-2015 development agenda has so far been restricted to New York and Geneva and the international platforms. However, what is increasingly becoming clear is that ultimately whatever development agenda is agreed upon by the Member States hinges hugely on what the National Governments decide as their priorities. Unfortunately, there have been no proactive efforts on the part of the international community to engage with the grass roots national disability movements. This needs to change and needs to change fast if we are truly serious about seeing disability as a cross-cutting issue across all goals, targets and indicators of the post-2015 development agenda.

How do grass roots movements get involved

The grass roots national disability movements need to study and understand the relevance of the discourse on post-2015 development agenda. What the international discourse is acutely lacking in is an understanding of the global South realities. Many governments of the global South have shown apathy towards the MDGs. They have not accepted international markers for development and have preferred to use their own targets and indicators. However, the MDGs are universal in nature and they are not different from what these governments consider to be their nationally relevant goals. For instance, a development goal could be universal healthcare. National governments may not adopt universal healthcare as their own target but may be prioritising schemes related to this goal in the form of free medicines, setting up rural health centres, etc.

The bottom line is many governments and bureaucrats in the global South are baffled by technical language used by international development practitioners. The grass roots movements therefore, have the critical role of breaking down this jargon to simple operational guidelines for local implementation.

Any and all development framework will ultimately come down to negotiations between Member States. Therefore, it will be very short-sighted to not keep the chain of communication with the grass roots movements, especially of the global South where 800 million of the world's 1 billion people with disabilities live.

So, what can you do

  • Keep yourself informed about the processes from now till 2015. Remember, knowledge is power.
  • Develop national level advocacy campaigns to convince your governments to talk about disability in all their negotiations regarding the post-2015 development agenda.
  • Advocate with your government to include disability in their list of priorities for the post-2015 development agenda.

The key to inclusion of disability in the post-2015 development agenda lies with you. It will not be a viable strategy to attach undue importance to lobbying only in New York and Geneva. Change has to come from the ground.