Conference Report: Ways to Inclusive Development
Nothing About Us Without Us Ways to Inclusive Development
More and more countries are ratifying the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, such as Germany where it came into force in March 2009. It is the first international legally binding convention that guarantees the human rights of persons with disabilities. The international community commits itself to enabling the participation of persons with disabilities in all areas of life and to reducing existing barriers.
The convention however refers not only to the situation in industrial nations. Article 32 redefines development cooperation: From now on persons with disabilities have to be included in international cooperation.
There are an estimated 650 million people with disabilities worldwide, 80 per cent of them are living in developing countries. Global poverty cannot be combated effectively without including them and taking their concerns into account. How cooperation with persons with disabilities can be realised was the subject matter of the conference โNothing About Us Without Us โ Persons with Disabilities as Actors of Sustainable Developmentโ, which took place on 2nd and 3rd December 2008 in Berlin.
Speakers came from Germany, India, Zimbabwe, Great Britain, Finland and the USA, and presented how their organisations realise inclusive development. The host organisations (bezev, Christian Blind Mission, Deutsche Lepra- und Tuberkulosehilfe, Interessenvetretung Selbstbestimmtes Leben and Misereor) made a point of giving the floor to professionals with disabilities. They are the experts in matters affecting them. This attitude corresponds to the change in the way of understanding the human being that also forms the basis of the UN-Convention: today itยดs not about welfare anymore, but about the active participation of persons with disabilities and the strengthening of their human rights.
One important approach in inclusive development is strengthening Disabled Peopleยดs Organisations (DPOs) in developing countries. Through capacity development they are to be supported in building up their own effective structures. In this way DPOs can represent their interests better and develop strategies to sustainably improve the situation of persons with disabilities. DPOs nowadays are active in many areas and carry out their own projects. In this way persons with disabilities are able to actively improve their living conditions by themselves and plan projects according to the needs of the target group.
Examples of good practice were presented at the conference. One example was from the Philippines where a local DPO had managed to implement its own internationally financed project which is now 70% funded by the Philippine Government and as a result secure in the long-term.
Participation โ fighting for their own rights โ for this people need to trust in their own abilities. One way to achieve this is through good role models, or through other means of empowerment, in other words activities which give courage to persons with disabilities and enable them to make use of their potential. One such method is Peer Counseling, where advice is given to persons with disabilities from other persons with disabilities.
Furthermore it is important to promote the networking of DPOs. It is precisely the smaller DPOs whose organisational structures are not so developed, which depend on the exchange of knowledge and information. This way they are better able to fulfil the formal requirements of national and international donors and also become more visible as potential partners to them.
Good cooperation between DPOs is also important for collaborating with national poverty reduction strategies (PRS). DPOs are a part of society and have to be included in PRS in order to represent the interests of persons with disabilities. This demands a considerable level of expertise, which especially for smaller DPOs represents quite a challenge.
In summary, cooperation with DPOs needs to be carried out more in development cooperation. The UN Convention with its paradigm shift from welfare to self-determined participation provides the legally binding framework. The conference also made clear that DPOs are subject to the same requirements of cooperative partnerships as other NGOs. This demands differentiated support, according to the level of organisation of the DPO.
The following recommendations for strengthening cooperation with DPOs were elaborated at the conference:
- Organisations working FOR persons with disabilities are often limited to programmes of welfare and care. As a result partnerships are recommended WITH DPOs to guarantee participation of persons with disabilities.
- Instead of just providing resources it is important to encourage the contribution and involvement of DPOs in order to generate a feeling of ownership.
- For sustainable development it makes more sense to train local staff (also disabled persons) in the South in order to become more independent in the long run from experts from the North.
- Persons with disabilities need to become more visible, for example they need to appear as speakers at events, in public and in the media. Only in this way can the public perception of disability be changed in the long term.
- Specific programmes for women with disabilities are needed, as they suffer multiple discrimination in many countries.
- Persons with intellectual disabilities are virtually unrepresented by DPOs. To include this group more, information resources should also be published in simple language.
A more detailed account of the results will be published in brochure form in German and obtainable from bezev from the latter half of the year on.
We would appreciate the publication of this article and would like to receive a specimen copy.
contact person: Mareike Bรผbl, Gabriele Weigt
Behinderung und Entwicklungszusammenarbeit e.V.
(Disability and Development Cooperation)
Tel.: 0201 - 17 88
Fax: 0201 - 17 89