Disability and Development Consortium Conference
Disability is unfortunately, an often-forgotten issue in international development. It should receive more focus given that at least 10 percent of the worlds population have a disability, at least 80 percent of those people live in developing countries and people with disabilities are often poorer that citizens without disabilities. This reality was highlighted when over 200 people from around the Pacific and Asia met in Canberra for a two-day conference on Disablity, Disadvantage and Development in the Pacific and Asia (29 – 30 September). The conference was organised by the Australian Disability and Development Consortium.
While the majority of participants have been campaigning for the rights of people with disabilities for a long time, there was a real sense that disability is finally on the agenda. This reflects the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (to which New Zealand ratified on 25 September 2008) coming into force early this year. It reflects also and the recent commitment to disability from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), who join NZAID in supporting the mainstreaming of disability throughout all development policies and programmes, and specific initiatives to support the empowerment of people with disabilities.
The conference was a great learning opportunity. Presentations focused on some of the most pertinent issues for people with disabilities, including women with disabilities; using the CRPD as an advocacy tool with governments; the importance of Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs); economic empowerment; access to information; and capacity building. As NZAID has been a long supporter of disability in the Pacific, I was able to present on the role of official development assistance for disability and some of the lessons NZAID learned in this process.
The conference finished with several key messages: ‘nothing about us without us’ (emphasizing that people with disabilities should be included in the design, implementation and evaluation of all relevant policy, programmes and processes), and that it was time to ‘just get on with it’.
On 30 October a smaller session will be held for regional stakeholders to workshop the major issues coming from the conference and how best they can be taken forward.