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.

UNGA 72: Focusing on people

The 72nd regular session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) convened at the UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, 12 September. In addition, the General Debate opened on Tuesday centering on “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet.”

The President of the 72nd session of the UNGA, Miroslav Lajčák, identified the following six overarching priorities for his presidency: (1) making a difference in the lives of ordinary people, (2) prevention and mediation in sustaining peace, (3) migration, (4) the SDGs and climate and addressing inequalities, (5) human rights and equality, and (6) quality of mandated events.

Recurrent themes in presentations and at events include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), peace, migration and refugees, climate change, gender equality, education, and youth, most of which are key areas of focus in CBM’s work. As such, I will focus this piece on youth with disabilities and the SDGs as it is increasingly important in today’s world.

Youth with Disabilities and the SDGs

Youth with disabilities and the SDGs are an area of increasing importance since there are approximately 180 to 220 million youth with disabilities worldwide and nearly 80 percent of live in developing countries.[1] Persons with disabilities, including youth with disabilities experience higher rates of unemployment and economic inactivity than their counterparts without disabilities and are at greater risk of insufficient social protection, which is integral to reducing extreme poverty.[2]

The most applicable Goals and targets for youth with disabilities include Goal 4 on education and Goal 8 on employment. Especially, the targets and indicators under Goal 4:

  • 4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
  • 4.a Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all
  • 4.a.1 Percentage of schools with access to (i) electricity; (ii) Internet for pedagogical purposes; (iii) computers for pedagogical purposes; (iv) adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities; (v) single-sex basic sanitation facilities; (vi) basic handwashing facilities…

And the targets and indicators under Goal 8:

  • 8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
  • 8.5.1 Average hourly earnings of female and male employees by occupation, by age group and persons with disabilities
  • 8.5.2 Unemployment rate, by sex, age group and persons with disabilities

There are solid examples this year of regional engagement of youth with disabilities in sustainable development and human rights, including:

A strong national example of empowerment of youth with disabilities is from Rwanda through the Disability Rights Fund:

  • Uwezo Youth Empowerment is a Rwandan local NGO that was established by youth with disabilities to advocate for their inclusion of youth with disabilities in all youthful programs.
  • With support from VSO Rwanda, UWEZO implemented a two-year project aimed at employment of job seekers with disabilities through volunteering and/or internships.
  • Uwezo facilitated 45 youth with disabilities to have mentorships, transport and communication allowance.
  • As of July 2016, 21 youth with disabilities are fully employed.

Suggestions for engagement on the way forward

  • Engage and collaborate more with other civil society groups, such as the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth.
  • Participate in and support youth with disabilities to attend the ECOSOC Youth Forum, UN Youth Delegate Programme and additional UN programs
  • Create commissions, subgroups and programs focused on youth in our own organizations and alliances.
  • Provide platforms for trainings and information exchange for youth with disabilities.
  • Participate in the HLPF 2019, which will focus on “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

[1] Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University and UNDESA. From http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-with-disabilities.pdf.

[2] (2017). ILO. From http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/disability-and-work/WCMS_475650/lang–en/index.htm.

High-level Political Forum 2018

Summer is coming to a close and we are already gearing up for the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) 2018! As a refresher, the HLPF is the annual global platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Please continue reading for a concise review on what is happening.

The Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic Marie Chatardova is the new President of ECOSOC. It is fantastic to have a woman in this position!

The HLPF 2018 theme is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” with a special focus on SDG 6 (water), SDG 7 (energy), SDG 11 (cities and human settlements), SDG 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns), SDG 15 (terrestrial ecosystems), and SDG 17 (MOI and partnerships). SDGs 11 and 17 are the most relevant for persons with disabilities and our work. Refer below to the explicit references to persons with disabilities in the respective targets and indicators.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
11.2 By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, “persons with disabilities” and older persons 11.2.1 Proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport, by sex, age and “persons with disabilities”

 

11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and “persons with disabilities” 11.7.1 Average share of the built-up area of cities that is open space for public use for all, by sex, age and “persons with disabilities
11.7.2 Proportion of persons victim of physical or sexual harassment, by sex, age, “disability status” and place of occurrence, in the previous 12 months

 

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
17.18 By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, “disability,” geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts

The exact dates of the HLPF are not yet certain, but the event will be held for eight days in June/July of next year.

Forty-four countries have already volunteered to present National Reviews next year and the list is now closed. The countries include the following (those in bold are reviewing for a second time): Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Benin, Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Canada, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Niger, Paraguay, Poland, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Sudan, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Viet Nam (Please find the list of countries here, and select “2018”).

For CBM’s work at the national level, the countries of particular interest include Niger, Republic of Congo, Viet Nam, Mexico, and Ecuador. For our Member Associations, the countries of focus include Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Switzerland.

An important point to keep in mind is that during the 73rd session of the General Assembly, the format and organizational aspects of the HLPF will be reviewed by Member States. We must ensure that persons with disability continue to be meaningfully included in the HLPF.

2030 Agenda and CRPD training in Bolivia

From 11 to 13 August, I co-facilitated a workshop in Cochabamba, Bolivia with our partner Victor Baute from Venezuela who represented RIADIS. The workshop focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The workshop was the first of its kind in Bolivia for organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs). The enthusiasm and interest from participants in learning about the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in line with the Convention was quite evident. In addition, Carla Caceres from CBM in Bolivia attended the workshop, as well as other supporting NGOs, including MyRight and ADD. Since Bolivia is a priority country for CBM, the workshop was especially well linked to our focus on global advocacy and national programmatic work on disability-inclusive development.

Alt="Victor Baute presenting the SDGs and CRPD"

Victor Baute presenting the SDGs and CRPD

The workshop was organized by ASHICO, the Association of Hard of Hearing Persons in Cochabamba and member of RIADIS. Thirty DPO representatives attended the participatory workshop from national, municipal, and community-based DPOs from all over Bolivia.

The workshop was inclusive and diverse with representation from Indigenous persons with disabilities, women with disabilities, youth with disabilities, persons with psychosocial disabilities, self-advocates, Little People, persons with disabilities in sports, Deaf persons, Blind persons, persons with low vision, hard of hearing persons, persons with physical disabilities, and families with children with disabilities. Victor lead the facilitation and received positive feedback on being a role model for the Deaf community and persons with disabilities in Bolivia and the region.

Participants shared the myriad barriers and challenges for persons with disabilities in Bolivia. An overarching challenge is that there are many norms and laws in Bolivia for persons with disabilities, but these are only on paper and unfortunately not implemented. Moreover, there is a missing connection between the technical expertise from the UN and the national level in Bolivia in terms of the CRPD and its implementation. In Bolivia, it is at the municipal level where disability laws are implemented and there is real impact.

Alt="Anibal Subirana from Federación Boliviana de Sordos (Bolivian Deaf Federation) presenting"

Anibal Subirana from Federación Boliviana de Sordos (Bolivian Deaf Federation) presenting

The top priorities for persons with disabilities in Bolivia that emerged from group work included:

  • Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, and Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
  • Followed by, Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

 

 

Participants were keen to learn and understand more about the 2030 Agenda and how it links to the Convention. As a result, the level of awareness significantly grew by day 3, as the photo below indicates. With this awareness, the group produced next steps as outcomes, including:

ALt="Participants’ level of awareness on the CRPD, 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and the national disability law from day 1 to 3"

Participants’ level of awareness on the CRPD, 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and the national disability law from day 1 to 3

  • The disability community in Bolivia will work to be more united and have shared messages to advocate to the government for CRPD and SDG implementation.
  • Participants will replicate this training and what they learned in the countryside and other remote parts of Bolivia to a variety of disability organizations and communities.
  • A group of participants will replicate and share what they learned from the workshop every month in Cochabamba for persons with disabilities.

 

  • The group proposed that there be a follow-up training in a year to assess what has been disseminated and realized in that time throughout the disability community in Bolivia.

I look forward to working more with the DPOs and partners in Bolivia!

ALt="Olivia Ojopi and Mayra Borda from the Association of Little People in Bolivia with Victor Baute from RIADIS and me"

Olivia Ojopi and Mayra Borda from the Association of Little People in Bolivia with Victor Baute from RIADIS and me