Data collection and persons with disabilities

The sixth meeting of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) was held from 11 to 14 November 2017 in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain. Civil society was able to participate during the plenary session, which was held during the last two days. Key themes that emerged were the need for capacity building, focus on disaggregation of data, and reclassification of indicators and their respective tier rankings. Collecting data on persons with disabilities was a recurrent theme, as well as a focus on data on older persons.

As background, the IAEG-SDGs was established by the Statistical Commission at its 46th session to develop an indicator framework for the monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development at the global level and to support its implementation. The global indicator framework was adopted by the UN General Assembly in July 2017. You can read the resolution here.

Alt="Stakeholders with the IAEG-SDGs co-chairs from Mexico and Tanzania"

Stakeholders with the IAEG-SDGs co-chairs from Mexico and Tanzania

This IAEG-SDGs meeting focused on data disaggregation, which is particularly relevant for persons with disabilities who are all too often not counted or included in data collection and consequently left out of key policies and programs. We advocated for disaggregation by disability during the plenary as well as with the co-chairs of the disaggregation work stream (from Germany and Ghana) with members from Bahrain, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Egypt, France, the Netherlands, and Senegal.

The disaggregation work stream released its first “stocktaking” document on disaggregation entitled “Overview of standards for data disaggregation” in which disability is highlighted You can read more here. We welcomed the document, and especially that it proposes the Washington Group Short Set of Questions as standard for monitoring the SDGs. As CBM we have supported the use of the Washington Group in Guatemala in the Guatemala National Disability Survey (ENDIS). You can read more about this work here.

Also during the meeting, certain indicators were requested to be reclassified (read here for more information on Tier classification for global SDG indicators). The relevant indicators for persons with disabilities discussed were:

  • health services (indirect), 3.8.1 (will remain Tier III)
  • public city space (direct), 11.7.1 (will remain Tier III, but will be reviewed again in the coming weeks)
  • capacity-building support to developing countries to increase the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable disaggregated data (indirect), 17.18.2 (reclassified as Tier II)
Alt="Working with Stakeholders on our joint statement on data disaggregation"

Working with Stakeholders on our joint statement on data disaggregation

As part of the larger stakeholder group, we had the excellent opportunity to meet with the IAEG-SDGs co-chairs (from Mexico and Tanzania) to propose our recommendations to make the process more inclusive. We proposed to change the format of the plenary so we can input prior to the closed sessions, and also to have more opportunities to engage with the working groups and input into the many processes. Our feedback was received well overall and we hope to see doors opening for civil society to engage more meaningfully in the indicator process.

We will continue to engage in the global indicator process from New York. Stay tuned for more updates on this integral work that is a key part of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Marathon towards Inclusion

On November 9th and 10th, I attended the third International Conference of the World image1Federation of the Deaf (WFD). Under the motto: “Full Inclusion with Sign Language” over 700 participants gathered in Budapest, Hungary to exchange on key issues for the Deaf Community around the world. Key topics included bilingual education, employment, political participation and technology.

 

This conference was an excellent opportunity to celebrate achievements made by the Deaf Community over the last years, but also to look at the long way that is still ahead towards full inclusion.

An area in which both victories and outstanding struggles can be observed is the recognition of Sign Language in all countries across the globe. While participants highlighted the many breakthroughs that were achieved since the first-ever recognition in the US in the 1960s (today more than 100 Sign Languages are recognised), in many places Sign Language is still not recognised an official language, a language that has the same status as the respective national/spoken languages(s). The recognition of Sign Language is not purely a legal matter! It has massive implications for people’s lives, as it is the precondition for participation on an equal basis with others in basically all areas of life.

 

An area of particular challenge remains employment. The situation obviously varies significantly from one country to another, but the employment rate of people who are Deaf is generally very low compared to the average of the population. There is a multitude of factors leading to that situation     . Some of them are discriminatory practices by employers, their lack of understanding of the Deaf Culture and lack of knowledge of what needs to be put in place in order to provide an inclusive work environment. In addition, the many challenges that people who are Deaf often face in education can lead to   a lower starting point when applying for a job than is the case for hering “competitors”.

During the conference, a number of promising examples on how to improve the employment situation of persons who are Deaf were presented. They revolve around the three compoenents of 1. Raising awareness amongst employers of the rights of employees who are Deaf, 2. Encouraging and training Deaf people to apply for jobs and three. Creating Deaf-led businesses.

 

Whether in employment or other areas of life, the biggest obstacle to full inclusion remains, however, that too often society focuses on the “disability” rather than viewing people who are Deaf just as people! This is certainly true for persons with disabilities more generally. One example that there still is a long way to go strongly resonated with me: How often it happens to people who are Deaf that their Sign Language interpreter is approached by others rather than being approached directly. This is a situation I know – as a blind person – far too well: When I am accompanied by an assistant, questions such as: “Can he walk the stairs?” are often addressed to the assistant. This should be “Can YOU walk the stairs?” This is not a matter of political correctness; it is simply how all of us would like to be treated, namely as full members of society!

Financing for Development and the SDGs

The 2018 Financing for Development (FfD) process for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has begun. Last week the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Financing for Development held a meeting to discuss its report for 2018, which in part influences the FfD Forum outcome document and thus is an important document to influence.

As background, the IATF on Financing for Development was convened by the UN Secretary-General to follow up on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and is comprised of over 50 United Nations agencies, programs and offices, regional economic commissions and other relevant international institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The IATF reports annually on progress in implementing the Addis Agenda and other FfD outcomes and the means of implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Last week’s dialogue was for Member States, Agencies, and civil society on the progress of the 2018 report thus far. Member States that made statements included: Belgium, Jamaica, the EU, Canada, China, Russia, and France. As the only civil society presenter, we advocated for the inclusion and participation of civil society and of persons with disabilities in the upcoming report. The response was that:

  • For the next briefing, there will be a more accessible manner to include people calling in remotely.
  • There will be an effort to have more consultations with opportunities for civil society to input into the draft report.
  • Stakeholders will be invited to participate in the FfD Forum.

Key points:

  • The 2018 IATF report will be structured as a three-prong report with focus on (1) global context, (2) thematic context, and (3) the seven Addis Agenda chapters.
  • The report will be linked to the SDGs of focus for 2018 High-level Political Forum (water, energy, sustainable cities, sustainable consumption, and bio-systems).
  • Another focus will be on the impact of private finance, blended finance, and financial inclusion.
  • Threads that will link across chapters include:
    • Gender
    • Technology (in terms of employment, trade, domestic resource mobilization, and taxes)
    • Impact on the most vulnerable countries (risk of natural disasters and increasing debt risk)

Next Steps

  • There will be additional dialogues on the IATF report.
  • There will be a possible retreat early next year for in-depth discussions on early findings of the report.
  • By end of February 2018, the first draft of the report will be posted online.
  • There will be continued dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.

We will continue to advocate for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in this important process. Key entry points include technology and disaster risk reduction, in which CBM can provide particular expertise. Stay tuned for updates!

Eye health and the environment – why sustainability and inclusivity go hand in hand

David Lewis, CBM Focal Point for Environmental Sustainability, and Kirsty Smith, Chief Executive of CBM UK  on an important opportunity to  promote environmental sustainability in the eye-health sector amid a month of climate disaster.

The need for global responsibility cannot be plainer. Hurricanes in quick succession battering communities in the Caribbean, leaving many homeless and with little help, including people with disabilities. Hurricane Maria followed Harvey and Irma. Now Nate has struck. Sometimes it’s hard to feel optimistic that our efforts do enough, soon enough, to temper the onslaught of extreme weather following decades of en-vironmental damage.

However there is hope and CBM is determined to do our bit to improve the sustain-ability of all of our work. In September we logged in via Skype to Kathmandu to join the launch of an international working group for environmental sustainability, one of our biggest priorities if we are to see global health of the world’s poorest people improve.

The group has   been set up by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) after a proposal  from member organisations including CBM, Vision 2020 UK, Aravind Eye Care System as well as other interested individuals.

Our aim is to bring together well-researched and creative approaches to strengthen environmental sustainability in eye health organisations around the world.

 

Patients after cataract surgery at Caritas Takeo Eye Hospital, Cambodia. Open, airy verandahs allow for air movement, keeping the hospital cooler and creating a pleasant environment for patients to wait.

Central to CBM’s mission
Climate change and environmental degradation have a devastating impact on all parts of the world, but this is particularly true for the world’s poorest communities. What drives our determination is knowing people with disabilities and other vulner-able groups are among those most affected on a daily basis, and in every part of their lives.

Health and well being are at risk in polluted and dangerous environments. These communities often lack access to safe water and sanitation, to sustainable food and energy sources. They face increasing risks due to natural and man-made disasters and more often than not find themselves at the back of the relief aid queue.

In terms of  eye health, we know that the communities most susceptible to envi-ronmental degradation carry some of the highest rates of avoidable and permanent blindness.

CBM is acutely aware that climate change is predicted as one of the largest health threats of the 21st century and that health care itself is a large contributor to carbon emissions.  Working closely with high quality eye health services around the world puts CBM in a strong position to draw attention to the essential need to reduce carbon emissions.

 
Why sustainability and inclusivity go hand in hand
Environmental sustainability and inclusion have been at the heart of CBM’s work for many years. We want to improve the environment and at the same time make  sure people with disabilities and those from other marginalised groups participate in environmental programmes as their human right. Thanks to advocacy by CBM and others, the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals agreed by world leaders in September 2015, became much more inclusive.
CBM has in recent years created a resource booklet to help and inspire those seeking to make eye health services, and health and development programmes generally, more environmentally sustainable. It includes case studies, checklists and ideas with input from our  global advisors and partners in the field.  We want to demonstrate the wide ranging actions possible to strengthen environmental sustainability, particularly in the poorest countries, and gather evidence of the effectiveness of CBM’s actions so that we can replicate our most effective interventions elsewhere.  As well as environmental sustainability and inclusion, – this booklet highlights the need for accessibility, gender equality , safe-guarding those at risk, and disaster risk reduction as keys to sound development practice.

 
Case Study, Cambodia
We were delighted to have one of our studies highlighted at the IAPB Council meetings in  Kathmandu, as an effective model  of environmental sustainability which others in the field can learn from, as well as contributing their own ideas.
We are particularly proud of what has been achieved during our partnership with the Caritas Takeo Eye Hospital from 1996 – 2013.
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in  Asia, with the majority  of the population living in poor  rural areas, with low access to services. Blindness is a key factor  contributing to this poverty.
It was in 2006 when  the chance came  to innovate in all areas of hospital life. The old hospital had to be demolished and all the stake-holders  wanted the new one, from its construction, energy and water supplies, to its cooking equipment and even surgery techniques to be of the lowest impact on the environment possible.  The hospital is proving to be a great model, with ongoing assessment of things which could be improved.
The hospital offers excellent eye care in accessible buildings which like many of the other facilities are above ground to reduce the threat from flooding. The “3 R’s” are used everyday -reduce recycle re-use .

 
Environment Sustainability Work Group – sharing expertise
CBM hopes the Cambodia study will help other IAPB members strengthen  high quality environmental practices and widen inclusivity in their own eye hospitals.

As a result of this and other expertise recognised within CBM, we had the opportunity to be one of the leads in  setting up the Environmental Sustainability Work Group for the IAPB.
Its launch in Kathmandu was a great success with CBM and other IAPB members setting out ambitious plans for innovation and learning, so that the best community eye services can be available while minimising their economic and environmental impact.
We are making progress.  Our determination to put the environment and inclusion at the epi-centre of the fight against poverty and inequality is moving forward.

 

Tomorrow we celebrate World Sight Day – make sure to read about it on our website! Also have a look at our newly released Neglected Tropical Diseases Report 2017.