Tag Archives: SDGs

Partnerships, CRPD, and SDGs in Central America

I was very pleased to participate in a workshop in Panama City, Panamá from 25-27 January. The workshop was organized by the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), and members. The focus of the technical workshop was on the monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for Central American organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs). DPO representatives from various DPOs hailed from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama.

I was very pleased to be a co-facilitator on behalf of CBM and IDDC with focus on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs and linked processes (e.g., Financing for Development, SDG Indicators). The other co-facilitators included Rosario Galarza (Latin-American Network of Persons with Disabilities and their Families – RIADIS), José Viera (World Blind Union), Victor Baute (RIADIS and World Federation of the Deaf) and Monica Cortez (Inclusion International), with expert contribution of Silvia Quan (former CRPD Committee member) on the CRPD, and with Tchaurea Fleury (IDA) as the team leader.

Alt="Group shot of participants in the Panama training"

Participants from the training

The overarching objective of the workshop was to examine and strengthen the linkages between the CRPD and the SDGs and support DPO representatives to compile information that will be used in SDG and CRPD national reviews. This was particularly strategic as all of the four aforementioned countries will be giving voluntary national reviews (VNRs) at the HLPF in July and three of the countries will be reviewed by the CRPD Committee in Geneva.

The training had several positive outcomes:

  • Participants further developed their knowledge on the CRPD, gained knowledge on the 2030 Agenda, and better understood the linkages between the two frameworks.
  • The space allowed for regional networking between and among different DPOs and groups of persons with disabilities.
  • The connection between national, regional, and global (human rights and SDG) processes was highlighted and strengthened.
  • Information was further disseminated to communities after the training. For example, the day after the training, Victor Baute presented on the 2030 Agenda to the Deaf Association in Panama.
  • The training was quite inclusive in terms of materials, participation, interaction, and participants (for example, participants attended from less frequently represented groups, including a self-advocate, youth, people from rural areas, and Indigenous persons with disabilities).
  • There are now various materials in Spanish related to the CRPD and the SDGs, which can be disseminated throughout the region.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to IDA for its support and leadership, particularly Tchaurea Fleury and Mariana Sanchez, in carrying out this successful workshop.

This training exemplifies the spirit of the 2030 Agenda as the agenda is for, by, and of the people. As such, I will conclude this blog with some key words that the participants shared as their highlights from the training:

  • New connections
  • Capacity
  • Professionalism and education
  • In-depth content and information
  • United forces
  • A broader vision
  • Rights
  • Inclusion
  • Equality
  • Continued learning, teamwork, and inclusive facilitation
  • Diverse perspectives
  • Working together


Summary of the workshop in International Sign by Victor Baute (Spoken-English version*):

Summary of the workshop in International Sign by Victor Baute (Spoken-Spanish version*):

*The spoken-Spanish interpretation was done by Astrid Arias and the spoken-English interpretation was done by Elizabeth Lockwood.


Additional Information

IDA web page on the workshop

Photos from the workshop


Six SDGs and why they matter for persons with disabilities

Happy New Year! In 2017, we, as advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities in CBM, will continue to engage in the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) nationally, regionally, and globally. Therefore, it is good to revisit why the SDGs are important for an inclusive society to truly leave no one behind. Please continue reading for some brief highlights on six of the Goals (5, 6, 10, 11, 16, and 17) and why they are important for persons with disabilities.

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is imperative due to the multiple barriers and exclusion that women and girls with disabilities experience. Up to 20 per cent of women globally have a disability[1] and women and girls with disabilities encounter triple discrimination: being female, having a disability, and being among the poorest of the poor.[2] Women and girls with disabilities have additional barriers compared to men with disabilities and women without disabilities. This includes exclusion from participating in a sustainable and inclusive economy, an increased risk of violence and abuse, lack of access to justice, minimal participation in political and public life, and prejudice and discriminatory attitudes in sexual health, reproductive rights and in the right to family life.

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is important since 884 million people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. Assuming this group of people is the poorest of the poor, at least 177 million are likely to be persons with disabilities (20 per cent of poorest)[3], thus affecting a significant population of the world. Unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices, and inadequate disposal of human and animal waste have major health implications including causing Neglected Tropical Diseases amongst others.

Access to safe and affordable water and sanitation facilities greatly benefit persons with disabilities and their families, improving nutrition and preventing death and diseases; reducing poverty and promoting socioeconomic development; labor saving; reducing hazards; and increasing dignity, self-reliance and independence.[4] [5] Sustainable development can only be achieved if it includes measures to prevent discrimination based on disability and ensures equal access to clean water and sanitation facilities, fulfilling the right to an adequate standard of living. Click here for more on this topic.

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

An inclusive and equal society is more likely to be sustainable. Having better access to quality education and health services, housing and clean water, land, financing and judicial recourse means that persons with disabilities can become better equipped to contribute to economic growth, and participate on an equal basis in society.

Disability-inclusive development involves the meaningful participation and inclusion of all community members (including persons with disabilities, women, Indigenous Peoples, older persons, children and youth, and ethnic minorities in rural and urban areas). To ensure inclusive development, donors and agencies must prioritise planning and reporting systems that explicitly capture the participation of, and outcomes for, traditionally marginalized groups. Disability-inclusive development is both a goal and a process, which occurs when the entire community, including persons with disabilities, benefit equally from development processes.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable is quite important as this significantly affects persons with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization and the World Bank, 15 per cent of the world’s population has a disability and by 2050, 6.25 billion people will live in urban centers. If these estimates remain, it means that by 2050 nearly one billion urban dwellers will be persons with disabilities.

With the development and enforcement of accessibility standards, new transportation systems, pedestrian pathways, and information systems, persons with disabilities could have access to urban areas without assistance at unprecedented levels.  Furthermore, non-discrimination policies protecting the rights of persons with disabilities are needed to ensure right to housing and to stop exclusionary housing policies. For more information on this topic, read the World Enabled and CBM publication “The Inclusion Imperative: Towards Disability-inclusive and Accessible Urban Development.”

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Given that one in five people in developing countries has a disability[6], it is vital that inclusive governance practices are promoted, which actively encourage the participation of persons with disabilities at all levels of the democratic process. Both the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights require this, and governance systems that do not represent the views of 15 per cent of their population with disabilities are falling short of their international obligations and not adhering to the principles of good governance. The CRPD has several Articles related to governance and political participation, including: Article 13, access to justice; Article 21, the right to freedom of expression and access to information; and Article 29, the right of persons with disabilities to participate in political and public life. Persons with disabilities must have equal opportunities to participate and be represented in political, social and economic processes for a truly inclusive society.

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

Goal 17 and the 2030 Agenda transform the traditional vision of partnerships and highlight the significant role of stakeholders and multi-stakeholder partnerships – including persons with disabilities – to share information, expertise, and resources in order to achieve the SDGs. This notion is in line with CRPD Articles 4.3 and 32 and the core theme of the disability movement “Nothing about us, without us.” Partnerships provide the space for persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to have meaningful representation as well as to ensure that the challenges faced by persons with disabilities are accounted for and met in the implementation of the SDGs.


[1] Heinicke-Motsch, K. & Sygall, S. (2004). Building an Inclusive Disability Community: A manual on including people with a disability in international development projects. Mobility International USA.

[2] United Nations Population Fund. (2005). Promoting Gender Equality. Retrieved from http://www.unfpa.org/gender/

[3] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/MDG_FS_7_EN.pdf (see World Health Organization and World Bank (2011) World Report on Disability.  Geneva: WHO Press).

[4] Jones, H. (2013). Mainstreaming disability and ageing in water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. WaterAid UK.

[5] Jones, H. & Reed, B. (2005). Water and sanitation for disabled people and other vulnerable groups: Designing services to improve accessibility. WEDC. Loughorough: UK. (book). https://wedc-knowledge.lboro.ac.uk/details.html?id=16357

[6] World Bank.  Disability and Poverty: A Survey of World Bank and Poverty Assessments and Implications’.  Jeanine Bratihwaite and Daniel Mont, SP discussion paper No. 0805, World Bank, February 2008.

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.