Sustainable Development means disability-inclusive development!

Ministerial Declaration adopted - Maggie Kern blogs from the HLPF, Part 2
Photo: Left to right - Yetnebersh Nigussie, Dagnachew Wakene, Maggie Kern. Credit: Light for the World

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) for the follow-up and review on the Sustainable Development Goals ended with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration on the theme of this year “Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions through promoting sustainable development, expanding opportunities and addressing related challenges”. Disability is mentioned in five paragraphs (2, 14, 17, 27, and 28).  

After two intense weeks at the United Nations in New York my colleague Yetnebersh and I are packing our bags to return to Vienna and Addis Ababa respectively. 

The second week of the High-level Political Forum saw a number of inspiring meetings and events. It consisted of the so-called High-level Segment of ECOSOC and the presentations of the 43  states who volunteered for their national reviews this year. Among these states were our partner countries Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and India among others.

At the Voluntary National Review of Ethiopia, we were happy to see that information from the national consultations, in which Disabled People’s Organisations had been involved, was taken up by the government. At the Questions & Answers session after the presentation by the Ethiopian Planning Commissioner, two members of the Disability Stakeholder Group were able to ask questions on behalf of the whole civil society representation (the so-called Major Groups and other Stakeholders).

Yetnebersh asked: How does the government ensure that grassroots Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have the required space and capacity for participation in the SDGs?

Dagnachew Wakene from the African Disability Alliance: How will Ethiopia reallocate budget to bring first those left behind including people with disability, old people, youth in difficult circumstances, and women?

On Wednesday, the outcome document  of the Forum was adopted, after intense discussions among the states on – sadly – contested issues such as foreign occupation, climate change, gender equality and financing for development. The references to persons with disabilities as belonging to the most discriminated people in society could be successfully retained. We are very grateful for the support on this issue from the Austrian Permanent Mission to the United Nations and all other states which acted as champions for disability inclusion in the discussions.

Yetnebersh and I participated in several thematic side events and were honoured to meet Dr Tedros Adhenom, recently elected Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Dr Tedros spoke passionately at the side event on Universal Health Coverage which is of particular importance to persons with disabilities. He said: “UHC means that every person has access to medical care. All roads lead to UHC. It is an ethical issue. Do we want our fellow citizens to die because they are poor?”

At a meeting with the Czech Delegation we learnt how Czech Republic designed its consultation and awareness raising measures to ensure participatory implementation and reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals.  

As part of the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities we are very proud to see the increased focus given to the rights of persons with disabilities by member states in their presentations. Among them were Kenya, the Netherlands, Ethiopia, and Belgium. This shows that the manifold efforts of the disability community to get disability included in the picture of poverty eradication and development are starting to pay off. However, much improvement is still needed to ensure full and equal participation of persons with disabilities both at the UN and in their home countries. The story continues!