Tag Archives: SDGs

SDGs, partnerships, and persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region

I was able to participate in the engaging “SDG Week” that was held from 28 November to 2 December at the United Nations ESCAP in Bangkok that was dedicated to understanding key challenges for effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The week provided a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from government, academia, the international community, civil society and the private sector to share knowledge, engage in discussions around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to provide feedback on national and regional implementation. Discussions centered on how to ensure that follow-up and review efforts strengthen implementation, not just add additional reporting requirements, and to adhere to the principles of follow-up and review as stipulated in the Agenda in terms of how it is carried out (country-driven, inclusive, participatory, transparent, gender-sensitive) and in terms of its focus (the poorest, most marginalized, and those furthest behind). In addition, the notion of partnerships to carry out the implementation of the Agenda was a key theme throughout the week.

Positively, persons with disabilities were well included throughout the week with multiple explicit references, including in the opening session by H.E. Saida Muna Tasneem, Bangladesh Ambassador to Thailand and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UN ESCAP. She highlighted the work that Bangladesh is doing on the inclusion of persons with disabilities at the national level. Additionally, Ms. Saowalak Thongkuay from Disabled Peoples’ International Asia-Pacific intervened during the partnership session calling for harmony between the legally binding Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the SDGS in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Representatives from Indigenous Peoples, women’s groups, other civil society organizations, and statisticians also included persons with disabilities in their statements.

Alt="Saowalak Thongkuay from Disabled Peoples' International Asia-Pacific presenting at UN ESCAP"

Saowalak Thongkuay from Disabled Peoples’ International Asia-Pacific presenting at UN ESCAP

The Asia-Pacific region, the SDGs, and persons with disabilities

The SDGs are very important for the Asia-Pacific region because 53 per cent of the population is impoverished, there is a large ageing population, and at the same time a youth bulge. All of these aforementioned groups include persons with disabilities and in fact one in every six persons in Asia and the Pacific (650 million people) has some form of disability (UN ESCAP Disability, 2016). The number is expected to rise over the next decades due to population ageing, natural disasters, chronic health conditions, road traffic injuries, poor working conditions and other factors. Despite the large and constant increasing number, persons with disabilities are all too often left behind and not counted.

The region boasts the regional disability-specific Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific (Incheon Strategy) promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the region. The Incheon Strategy builds on principles and contents of the CRPD, comprising 10 specific time-bound development goals, 27 targets and 62 indicators. The Strategy also further promotes the realization of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development with the references to persons with disabilities in the SDGs being linked to the 10 Incheon Strategy Goals. Furthermore, the ESCAP Guide on Disability Indicators for the Incheon Strategy aims to guide data collection and generation by ESCAP member States through providing them with relevant methodologies and tools to construct and use the 62 indicators of the Incheon Strategy, in order to monitor the achievement of the 10 disability-inclusive development goals.

Partnerships and persons with disabilities

Partnerships are critical for persons with disabilities and their representative organizations because this is the best way to ensure that persons with disabilities have representation and that the challenges faced by persons with disabilities are accounted for and met in SDG implementation. Persons with disabilities must therefore take a direct role in these partnerships to ensure that their interests are part of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs for the coming years.

Findings from a survey carried out by the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) found that there were various challenges regarding the participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the national consultations preparing for the HLPF 2016 voluntary national reviews. While participation took place in many countries, on the whole, persons with disabilities were largely left out of the national-level consultations. Even when wider civil society was invited to participate in consultations, often meetings and documents were not accessible for many persons with disabilities (e.g., lack of sign language interpreters), thus excluding them from these preparatory processes.


Why was this week important? It created the space to have discussions and clarity on the monitoring, review, and follow-up processes of the 2030 Agenda at all levels – national (government and community led), regional (regional bodies and commissions), and global (High-level Political Forum and Voluntary National Reviews). What emerged is that there is still lack of clarity on the process, but we need to create interlinkages between processes, strengthen partnerships, engage all stakeholders, and ensure that no one is left behind. Indeed, having diverse and inclusive engagement and participation, including people who are the most marginalized, was one of the most important elements of the group discussions. Also, provocative and important questions were raised in the discussions, such as Netithorn (Mao) Praditsarn (Global Compact Network Thailand and former diplomat) who asked “When do you unpack the UN? It’s like an explosive Christmas tree.”

During the week persons with disabilities were emphasized as a group that particularly needs to be included in these processes and must not be left behind. It is imperative that we all ensure the meaningful participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations as a key aspect of the inclusive, transparent, and participatory 2030 Agenda reflective of its main tenet “leave no one behind.”

Persons with disabilities, the SDGs and UHC

In late September, working with CBM Germany, I had the wonderful opportunity to present at two VENRO workshops and meet with officials in Germany. The first presentation I gave was over “No Transformation without Inclusion: Social Equality, Empowerment and Participation of Persons with Disabilities” with a focus on persons with disabilities in development and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The second was on “Leaving no-one behind through Universal Health Coverage and Health System Strengthening?” with a specific focus on persons with disabilities, the SDGs, and access to universal health coverage (UHC).

Alt="Presenting at the VENRO conference on persons with disabilities, SDGs and UHC"

Presenting at the VENRO conference on persons with disabilities, SDGs and UHC

I have put my second presentation into written form below since it is a compelling, as well as timely topic, as one of the Goals in focus for HLPF 2017 is Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives.


Universal health coverage means that everyone has access to quality health services without experiencing financial hardship[1]. It is a fundamental human right for all people to have access to UHC and health systems and facilities have to be inclusive and accessible to all persons, including persons with disabilities who are more likely to lack health coverage since persons with disabilities are more likely to live in impoverished conditions and to be the most marginalized.

Persons with disabilities encounter specific barriers in accessing healthcare services. These include higher costs for persons with disabilities, lack of accessible transportation, and inadequately trained medical staff. Moreover, women and girls with disabilities face additional barriers, for example enhanced constraints on traveling independently or preconceptions about whether they need certain services, such as sexual and reproductive health services.[2]

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015. This Agenda aims to build a better future for all people, including the chance to lead decent, dignified and rewarding lives and to achieve their full human potential and strives to end poverty, reduce inequalities, and save the planet from ecological degradation and climate change. The Agenda is universal, inclusive, and participatory in nature with an overarching focus on leaving no one behind. Universal health coverage should reflect the notion of leaving no one behind by providing access to people living in poverty first because they are often excluded and are the ones who face most difficulties in accessing basic services, including health care.

Research shows that ensuring access to quality health care for persons with disabilities increases their productivity and the wealth of their household.[3] Thus, good health should be seen as an investment rather than expenditure and UHC should be a top priority for sustainable development. And indeed, UHC is one of the cornerstones of sustainable development since healthier people are able to work more productively and have a higher educational performance. Accordingly, UHC is highlighted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals along with inclusive language that includes persons with disabilities.

Specifically, Goal 3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” is inclusive of all people, as well as target 3.8 “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.” The current global SDG indicator 3.8.1 also includes all people, including persons with disabilities: “Coverage of essential health services (defined as the average coverage of essential services based on tracer interventions that include reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and service capacity and access, among the general and the most disadvantaged population).”

Also, important is target 3.3 “By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.” This is because if neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are not addressed we will not achieve target 3.8 on UHC, Goal 1 on poverty eradication, Goal 2 on ending hunger, and Goal 4 on inclusive and quality education. Moreover, other goals, including Goal 6 on WASH, Goal 13 on Climate Change, and Goal 17 on MOI and the Global Partnership are closely linked in the elimination of NTDs.

Thank you to all my CBM Germany colleagues who supported my visit and stay, in particular Jan-Thilo Klimisch, Sarah Meschenmoser, Michael Herbst, Susan Pusunc, Veronika Hilber, and Maja-Lisa Mueller. It is a pleasure to work with all of you!

[1] WHO (2010). “The World Health Report 2010. Health Systems Financing: The path to universal coverage,” WHO Press, Geneva.

[2] CBM (2015). “Dialogues on Sustainable Development: A Disability-inclusive Perspective,” CBM.

[3] Danquah, L., et al. (2014). “The long term impact of cataract surgery on quality of life, activities and poverty: results from a six year longitudinal study in Bangladesh and the Philippines”. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 18;9(4):e94140.

Los ODS y las personas con discapacidad en Perú

Muchas gracias, Alba de la traducción! (Para la versión inglés clic aquí/For the English versión click here: “The SDGs and persons with disabilities in Peru.”)

El 22 y 23 de Agosto, Alba Gonzalez y yo proporcionamos un curso de capacitación nacional sobre la Agenda 2030 y los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS) y la Convención de los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad (CDPD) de la ONU en Lima (Perú), financiado por CBM. La presentación se dirigió a los líderes de las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad y sus aliados, algunos de ellos miembros de CBM. Aunque he dado diversos cursos de capacitación sobre los ODS este año, éste fue el primero en español. Esto es extremadamente importante ya que América Latina a menudo es apartada de los procesos sobre desarrollo a nivel global, particularmente en lo referido a los ODS. Estoy orgullosa de haber llevado a cabo este curso junto con mi compañera Alba quien trabaja desde Bruselas, así como de haber tenido el apoyo de mi compañera Gonna quien trabaja en Guatemala. Muchas gracias a las dos por el magnífico trabajo y apoyo!

Cursos de capacitación a nivel nacional sobre los ODS como este son increíblemente valiosos ya que CBM y otras organizaciones de la sociedad civil que trabajan en la Agenda 2030 tienen la responsabilidad de asegurar que los principales actores están informados y que son capaces de contribuir de una manera significativa. Una manera de conseguir esto es proveer un intercambio de información así como herramientas para las estrategias de incidencia política relativas a la implementación de los ODS.

El curso fue interactivo y ofreció un espacio para un diálogo constructivo en el que las ideas, aprendizajes y sugerencias fueron compartidos. Presentamos una información general sobre cómo los ODS y la CDPD están conectados y cómo éstos se refuerzan y complementan para la incidencia política. Además, dimos información sobre el contexto de seguimiento global y los procesos de revisión con una recapitulación del Foro Político de Alto Nivel (HLPF) de este año, las lecciones aprendidas del proceso de las revisiones voluntarias nacionales (VNR), las estrategias y cómo involucrarse en futuros HLPF. Finalmente, dimos un modelo de incidencia política nacional para la inclusión de las personas con discapacidad en la implementación nacional de los ODS.

Perú es un país estratégico que apoyar, ya que es muy probable que contribuya con una revisión voluntaria nacional en el Foro Político de Alto Nivel de los próximos años y las personas con discapacidad deben involucrarse en el proceso de consultación nacional. Los gobiernos de América Latina que han sido revisados este año en el HLPF – Colombia, México y Venezuela – no contaron con la sociedad civil durante dicho proceso, incluyendo las personas con discapacidad, de forma que ésta es una región con una importancia particular que hay que apoyar.

Alt="Alba, Elizabeth, y líder de la OPD en la formación en Perú"

Alba, Elizabeth, y líder de la OPD en la formación en Perú

Durante el curso, los participantes ofrecieron diferentes ejemplos de las barreras que las personas con discapacidad encuentran en el país para llevar a cabo una incidencia política efectiva:

  • Hay una falta de información accesible sobre incidencia política para las personas con discapacidad y sus familias a nivel nacional y regional
  • La sociedad en general tiene una falta de conocimiento y una actitud negativa o centrada en el modelo médico sobre las personas con discapacidad
  • Hay escasez de estadísticas disponible y fiable sobre las personas con discapacidad
  • Hay una falta de transparencia en el gobierno
  • En áreas rurales, hay acceso limitado a la tecnología e Internet debido a la falta de electricidad
  • Se necesita capacitación sobre estrategias de incidencia política
  • La mayoría de las personas con discapacidad viven en estado de pobreza e incluso pobreza extrema
  • Hay un limitado transporte que sea accesible, asequible y fiable
  • Hay una participación limitada de las personas con discapacidad en redes más generales de la sociedad civil y las organizaciones de la sociedad civil a nivel general no siempre incluyen a las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad
  • Los grupos de personas con discapacidad pueden aislarse centrándose en un tipo de discapacidad y no siempre colaboran como una coalición más amplia
  • Puede existir una falta de empoderamiento y capacidad de liderazgo en las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad

El grupo dio diversas sugerencias sobre cómo efectuar una incidencia política para la inclusión de las personas con discapacidad en la implementación de los ODS:

  • Identificar puntos de entrada para la incidencia política para las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad en diferentes regiones y niveles de gobierno (municipios, distritos, provincias, regiones y a nivel nacional).
  • Colaborar como un movimiento de discapacidad más amplio para conseguir una incidencia política más efectiva a nivel nacional
  • Construir alianzas con Organizaciones No Gubernamentales (ONG) y sociedades de la sociedad civil de diversas áreas temáticas
  • Las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad de Lima se comprometieron a la implementación de los ODS acorde con la CDPD con los líderes de las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad mediante mesas redondas con organizaciones civiles nacionales así como crear un plan nacional de accesibilidad
  • Llevar a cabo un curso sobre accesibilidad e incidencia política para diferentes líderes de organizaciones de personas con discapacidad para reforzar sus capacidades y unificar el movimiento de discapacidad

Fue un gran placer para mí volver a América Latina, donde he vivido y trabajado, para conocer antiguos y nuevos socios de CBM, así como trabajar y aprender de las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad y sus aliados en Perú. Continuemos los vínculos globales!

HLPF 2016: Lessons Learned and Next Steps

Now that two months have passed since the first high-level political forum (HLPF) since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable development goals (SDGs), it is good to reflect and share a brief analysis, lessons learned, and suggested next steps for future HLPFs. This blog is a concise version of more in-depth and substantive work that Orsolya Bartha from International Disability Alliance (IDA), Megan Smith from IDA, and I put together. Thank you for the stellar teamwork, dear colleagues!

As a quick recap, the HLPF is the central UN platform for the global follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as other frameworks related to sustainable development. For details on the background of the HLPF and HLPF 2016, please read my previous blogs: The High-level Political Forum and 22 Disability Advocates and HLPF 2016: Solidarity, Inclusion, and Participation.

Quick Facts

  • The HLPF 2016 was attended by 22 representatives of the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities consisting of 12 persons with disabilities and 10 advocates.
  • An official position paper by the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities titled “Ensuring that no one was left behind” was submitted to the HLPF and endorsed by over 370 organizations.
  • Two representatives from the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities were invited to be official presenters at the HLPF.
  • Representatives of the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities gave 17 interventions during the official sessions of the HLPF.
  • Seventeen out of the 22 written Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) explicitly elaborated on the situation of persons with disabilities in their national context (Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Madagascar, Mexico, Montenegro, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela).
  • Eight out of the 22 oral presentations on the VNRs explicitly mentioned persons with disabilities (Egypt, Finland, France, Madagascar, Morocco, Norway, Sierra Leone, and Samoa).
  • The Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities co-organized and hosted six side events.
  • Representatives from the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities presented at 10 HLPF side events.

Although the HLPF 2016 was a pilot year, there is indication that the HLPF has the potential to fulfill the role of a strong monitoring mechanism in which national reviews and thematic exchange can take place inclusive of grassroots organizations. Governments took the Forum seriously, attended with well prepared, large and high-level delegations. Despite the intergovernmental nature of the Forum, it was conducted as a multi-stakeholder platform that provided space for all kinds of actors to participate, intervene and deliver speeches, including persons with disabilities.

Prior to the HLPF, persons with disabilities mobilized, engaged at the national level in their country’s voluntary review process and report writing. Additionally, persons with disabilities meaningful participated throughout the entire Forum, as indicated above under Quick Facts. Positively, Member States, the UN, and other actors recognized persons with disabilities several times at the Forum as one of the most organized and well prepared stakeholder groups.

The HLPF 2016 provided a global venue in which persons with disabilities could connect, was an initial great learning opportunity on how to draw attention to national challenges in the global arena, and provided new options to strengthen UN Convention on the Rights of Peoples with Disabilities (CRPD) implementation within the SDG framework and development policies and programs. The HLPF 2016 also ensured that a wide range of disability organizations collaborated. During the Forum, initial steps were taken to formalize the establishment of the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities, which up to that point only existed on an ad-hoc level. Building on the meaningful participation from HLPF 2016, it is important for the disability community to continue to work as a broad coalition for future HLPFs. Please continue reading for recommendations on next steps.

Next Steps

Recommendations for Preparatory Process for HLPF 2017

  • Discuss with organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) and allies on what to achieve over the HLPF 2017 theme
  • Convene a working group that will draft and initiate broad consultation to carry out an official submission by persons with disabilities on the HLPF 2017 theme
  • Develop main messages to be communicated at the HLPF 2017
  • Development of participation and funding strategies to ensure a gender-balanced, geographical-balanced, and diverse representation of persons with disabilities, particularly of grassroots DPOs
  • Secure funding and resources, including translation fees, event organizing, and more
  • Coordinate, participate and share information in the regional multi-stakeholder platforms
  • Develop a strategic approach for participation in the voluntary national reports with emphasis to empower the involvement of national DPOs (strong participation in national multi-stakeholder consultations; reasonable accommodation for participants with disabilities; exchange of knowledge between national DPOs and global advocates; consultations to analyze the written national submissions; close collaboration with grassroots DPOs during the HLPF for urgent feedback; and so forth)
  • Support for the submission of parallel reports
  • Ensure that the new form of web-based interfaces is accessible and persons with disabilities are able to participate in an effective, broad and balanced participation by region and by type of organization
  • Address the accessibility challenges of the HLPF 2016 to create a more inclusive and accessible HLPF 2017

Upcoming themes for future HLPFs

  • HLPF 2017: Date: 10-19 July 2017, Theme: “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” The set of goals to be reviewed in depth will be Goal 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14, and including Goal 17.
  • HLPF 2018: Theme: “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.” The set of goals to be reviewed in depth will be Goal 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, and including Goal 17.
  • HLPF 2019: Theme: “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” The set of goals to be reviewed in depth will be Goal 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and including Goal 17.

I will end on H.E. Oh Joon (Republic of Korea), President of ECOSOC and HLPF’s quote from the HLPF 2016 Official Summary that exemplifies how persons with disabilities were meaningfully represented at the Forum. “Inclusiveness means that all people can participate as partners, rights-holders and full citizens, not as subjects or mere beneficiaries. Relevant international instruments often exist, such as the Convention on the Rights of Peoples with Disabilities, but are not always respected.”