Tag Archives: UN

Disability Statistics: Our Place in the Sun

The 48th session of the UN Statistical Commission took place from 7-10 March at the UN in New York with over 650 participants and 45 NGOs attending the opening session. This was an important and relevant session for our work as the SDG indicator framework was discussed and put forth for agreement, and on 10 March the UN Statistical Commission adopted the SDG indicator framework and will recommend that ECOSOC adopt it. This is another building block strengthening the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and is relevant for persons with disabilities as there are 11 disability indicators in the framework, as well as disaggregation by disability in the chapeau.

Disability was included throughout the four days with explicit inclusions in the opening, closing, and social statistics sessions. During the social statistics session, disability was strongly highlighted, and particularly positive was the push for the work of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics from some Member States/National Statistical Office (NSO) representatives.

John Pullinger representing the United Kingdom was the first to push for the Washington Group Short Set of Disability Questions calling it “the only show in town” as the tool to use for disaggregation of disability in the 2030 Agenda (see below for the full statement). Member States/NSOs that also explicitly supported the use of the Washington Group included Italy, Grenada in its national capacity and on behalf of CARICOM, Australia, Hungary, and Germany (in the opening session). Other Member States/NSOs that referred to the importance of disability statistics, but did not explicitly mention the Washington Group, included the Philippines, Cambodia, Barbados, South Africa, and the State of Palestine.

Furthermore, the UN Statistics Division hosted a disability statistics side event on “Improving Disability Statistics in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Jennifer Madans from the Washington Group on Disability Statistics presented on behalf of the United States and within her presentation highlighted the successful work of the Washington Group in the US context. Other presenters included NSO representatives from Uganda and Myanmar, whom both discussed the use of the Washington Group Short Set of Disability Questions in the statistical work at their respective national levels.

As a way forward, UN Statistics Division Director Stefan Schweinfest, provided a concise closing oral report in which he listed priorities for the work ahead regarding statistics. These include to:

Challenges included the need to:

  • Have constant discussion between statisticians and policy makers as the latter are the “holders of the purse” and the “setters of the agenda”
  • Build mutual respect and cooperation (connection from local to global) with international agencies, about which Schweinfest is “fiercely optimistic”
  • Work with civil society and the private sector (some have “trepidation because we don’t know each other,” but statistics should be about “joyful cooperation” and this can be done if we clearly agree on a division of labor with comparative advantages; and the Global Action Plan is a good tool for everyone to “find their place in the sun.”)

In closing, I’d like to echo Stefan Schweinfest’s words that “data can be the glue of the entire agenda” and in recognizing this it is important that we continue to collaborate so we all find our place in the sun in this agenda.

 

Social Statistics Statements on Disability Statistics (in order of presentation and not verbatim)

Statement by the United Kingdom, John Pullinger (at the 19-minute mark):

I too would just want to speak on one item, and that is the item relating to disability statistics. I think the work program here is very good and very positive on what has been done, but I would urge the Statistics Division to extend their ambition in the work program for 2017 in two respects. First, there has been outstanding work done by the WHO and the Washington Group to really understand the parameters of disability and help decision makers make sense of diverse and complex problems. I hope during the coming year in the work program proposed that the Statistics Division can give good guidance on how those instruments can be used in social survey programs, but also in individual country programs, which are many and varied. But the main point I’d wish to make is the link between disability questions and the Agenda 2030, and particularly on the issue of disaggregation. In that area, it is absolutely vital that we have a very simple framework for enabling people with disabilities to be counted so that none of them are left behind. And here, I think there is only “one show in town” and that is the short set of questions developed by the Washington Group that enables social survey operators to get simple classificatory data on disability that would enable their voice to be heard. And I would hope that the statistical division would be able to give clarity and guidance on this matter.

  • Italy strongly recommended a better relationship with Washington Group and the UNSD and highlighted the regional meetings of the Washington Group and that they provide capacity building (huge theme this UNSC) and technical assistance worldwide.
  • The Philippines supported the UNSD on disability statistics and its plans
  • Cambodia included the importance of disability statistics
  • Barbados included the need for disability statistics
  • Grenada on behalf of CARICOM – aligned with the UK’s statement and supported the use of the Washington Group short set and also highlighted the disability work with the Washington Group in the region and in Grenada.
  • Pali Lehohla, South Africa’s Statistician-General and Head of Statistics South Africa on behalf of South Africa supported disability statistics in his statement.
  • Australia supported the Washington Group as pragmatic and supported its further use in disability statistics.
  • Hungary supported the disability statistics work and the Washington Group, which also helps population and ageing.
  • The State of Palestine stated it would be useful to identify a particular framework on disability statistics.

Additional Information

Data and persons with disabilities

The first UN World Data Forum took place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 15-18 January 2017, hosted by the Government of South Africa and Statistics South Africa. The Forum brought together key experts from governments, businesses, civil society and the scientific and academic communities to discuss opportunities and challenges and showcase the latest innovations to improve data and statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Why is data important for persons with disabilities?

Data collection can provide the number of persons with disabilities in a location, the barriers, and what policies and programs are needed to eradicate those barriers. Disaggregation of data by disability is a key step in including persons with disabilities who encounter higher rates of poverty and exclusion from society.

To disaggregate by disability status in the SDG indicators, it merely requires the addition of a small set of questions – such as the Washington Group on Disability Statistics Short Set – on already existing data instruments. When disability questions are included in the data systems that produce the SDG indicators, disaggregation of data is not only feasible but can easily be accomplished.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development specifies that data should be disaggregated by “income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national context” (17.18). Overlooking these groups undermines the Agenda’s core concept of leave no one behind.

In contrast to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), civil society and other stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, have more space to drive and be involved meaningfully in the SDG indicator framework, particularly at the national level. The main reason for this is because the SDGs are country led, use a multi-stakeholder approach, and employ the principle of leave no one behind.

Alt="Elizabeth Lockwood CBM International, Berhanu Tefera from African Disability Forum, and Sarah Meschenmoser from CBM Germany"

Elizabeth Lockwood from CBM International, Berhanu Tefera from African Disability Forum, and Sarah Meschenmoser from CBM Germany

Disability inclusion at the Forum

Persons with disabilities had a strong presence at the Forum. This included an IDA-IDDC disability-focused side event (more below), having various panelists throughout the Forum highlighting disability (e.g., World Bank, DFID, and WHO) and with many DPO representatives and allies as participants and panelists. Moreover, in the opening session, Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General of DESA, included the need for data on persons with disabilities in his speech. Similarly, at the end of the Forum, disability was again highlighted as a group that needs to be addressed in data. Particularly relevant, is that in the final session on the IAEG-SDGs, two members included disability in their final conclusions on the Forum (Jamaica and Fiji).

Also, there is a disability reference in the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data that was launched at the World Data Forum. IDA and IDDC were active in advocating for this reference, so we welcome the inclusion of disability language. Specifically, the Plan states “Support the strengthening and further development of methodology and standards for disability statistics” (Objective 3.5). “Accessible” is also used twice in the document. While this is a good first step, the language can be improved from “strengthening” and “development,” to systematic mainstreaming of disability statistics. But as was stated in the closing session, the GAP is only the first step of what needs to get done and the beginning of a process.

GAP background

The Global Action Plan (GAP) was drafted by the High-Level Group on Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building (HLG) as one of the Group’s main objectives (the other was convening the UN World Data Forum). The GAP focuses on monitoring and statistics and calls for a full, active and focused commitment of government, policy leaders and the international community to implement the sustainable development agenda. Furthermore, the GAP calls for policy leaders to achieve a global pact or alliance that recognizes that funding modernization efforts of National Statistical Offices (NSOs) is essential to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

The (projected) work plan of the GAP:

  • January 16, 2017 – the GAP was launched at the UN World Data Forum, Cape Town, South Africa
  • March 2017 – Present the GAP to UNSC for endorsement by members
  • May/June 2017 – Endorsement of ECOSOC
  • July 2017 – HLPF: Side event to provide an update on the GAP
  • September 2017 – UNGA: Endorsement of UNGA
  • September 2017 – UNGA: Side event to provide an update on the GAP

Disability data event

The program covered six main themes, one of which was on leaving no one behind. Specifically, this theme looked at innovative approaches for SDG follow-up and review on all groups, data in post-conflict countries, and data and human rights.

I was a focal point organizing the session focused on disability data on “collecting disability data toward implementing the sustainable development goals and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” The key messages and recommendations that jointly emerged from the compelling session are as follows:

  • The inclusion of the Washington Group disability short set of questions in data collections that produce the sustainable development goal (SDG) indicators is a tested and efficient method for disaggregating indicators by disability status for monitoring the SDGs and the overarching objective of leaving no one behind. In addition, a child functioning module has been developed by the Washington Group and UNICEF for monitoring ‎the status of children with disabilities.
  • It is very feasible to disaggregate data by disability status at the primary and secondary levels in a range of health programs and within ministry of health and NGO facilities and outreach. The key is what is next?
  • Collection of disability-related data is greatly improved by involving organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) and persons with disabilities in data collection analysis and related programs and policies. NSOs and other organizations responsible for data collection and analysis would benefit by having persons with disabilities on their staff as well.
  • The Washington Group short set endorsed by UN agencies provides a way to leave no person with disabilities behind by disaggregating the SDGs. It is critical to make use of this tool for planning and monitoring, and to go beyond disaggregation to understand how discrimination occurs and how to challenge these, while at the same time engaging with DPOs to hold their governments accountable.

In addition, another IDDC member, Sightsavers, wrote a great blog over the Forum highlighting the importance of using the Washington Group Short Set of Questions and how this is being carried out in their programs.

Next steps and upcoming data-related events

  • A plan will be developed for increasing the data coverage of tier II indicators with the joint working group of the IAEG-SDGs and the HLG.
  • The 8th meeting of the HLG will take place on Sunday, 5 March 2017 in New York to discuss the outcomes of the first UN World Data Forum and plans to develop a short summary document on lessons learned.
  • The IAEG-SDGs will hold two meetings, the first in March 2017 and the second in the fall of 2017.
  • The 9th meeting of the HLG will take place in September/October 2017.
  • The next World Data Forum will take place in Dubai in two years.

This was the first of many UN world data gatherings, so let’s keep working together to ensure that no one is left behind and to build a more inclusive society.

Additional information

IDA and IDDC joint blog for the UN World Data Forum

IDA and IDDC joint blog for the UN World Data Forum in International Sign

World Data Forum Article on persons with disabilities

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.

References

[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.

Reflection

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.”