Author Archives: Lars Bosselmann

Lars Bosselmann

About Lars Bosselmann

Lars Bosselmann is the Director of CBM’s department for International Advocacy and Alliances. Lars promotes the inclusion of persons with disabilities in key development policies and processes at international level (e.g. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) as well as a strong collaboration between CBM and other international organisations. Lars is also Board Member of Concord, the European NGO confederation for relief and development, CBM's Representative at the World Blind Union (WBU) and at the International council of Children with Visual Impairment (ICEVI).

Time an essential Resource

Interpretation in GA RoomOn20th and 21st of June, the World Federation of the Deafblind (WFDB) held its 5th General Assembly in Benidorm, Spain. Together with Murielle Bertrand, I had the pleasure to attend the GA. While the delegates from 36 countries will stay here to go through a number of thematic workshops over the next five days, it is time for me to go back to Brussels and to share some impressions from the General Assembly with you. Interesting to note that this was my first WFDB meeting and the first-ever meeting where the majority of participants were people with Deafblindness.

 

Without going through the technical details of the GA which focussed very much on statutory matters, all deliberations were really interesting to observe, as they revealed a number of features to me. Firstly, I had never gone through a meeting – and most of you know I am used to attend many of them – where so many different formats and languages were in use! Between Sign Language, Tactile Sign, Braille in addition to all the different spoken World languages, you can imagine the mix of communication in the room. This made the proceedings of the GA very special: Things had to be slowed down, sometimes repeated, but, most importantly, at the end of the day, they got done!

Also wirth sharing with you that WFDB, while in its 17th year of existence, is mostly based on volunteers serving e.g. on its Executive Committee. Similarly, there is no permanent secretariat supporting its activities. All of us who often attend and organise meetings will know how much work it takes to prepare all the documents, reports, voting lists etc. Just then imagine the task of organising a global meeting without such permanent support! Amazing the way that WFDB managed to do all of that, but obviously it is not without its challenges.

Last observation from my side: From the conversations I had and from the atmosfere in the room, I could sense that WFDB members, at least at the global level, seem to have few opportunities to meet between GAs. In comparison to e.g. the World Blind Union that I am more familiar with, people in the room seemed less connected to each other/which is certainly due to the lack of opportunities to gather on a regular basis. But I could feel a great appetite to increase the number of exchanges and encounters, in order to learn from each other and to improve the quality of life of persons who are Deafblind, which is WFDB’s core mandate.

 

Many connections and partnerships do already exist for CBM: WFDB is member of the International Disability Alliance, has strong ties with the World Blind Union and the World Federation of the Deaf. Also strong linkages to Deafblind International and to the International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment are in place. With all those relationships in existence, I feel very much encouraged that CBM can further support the rights of people who are Deafblind in the future.

The Marathon towards Inclusion

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Data for People

Data for Development in AfricaTogether with CBM’s Country Representative for Kenya, David Munyendo, I had the pleasure of attending the High-Level meeting entitled “Data for Development in Africa – Unleashing the Power of Data and Partnerships Across Africa” on 29th and 30th in Nairobi. That event was co-hosted by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, the Governments of Kenya and Sierra Leone, and Safaricom. It brought together more than 400 representatives from Governments, UN Agencies, the Private Sector, Civil Society and Academia. All of these different actors came together united by the vision to contribute to the often quoted data revolution that should benefit those who are currently most marginalised.

And this is where disability comes into the picture! In fact, whereas this was the biggest meeting of that kind in Africa, the CBM team in Kenya had advocated for inclusion of persons with disabilities in the data debates over the last few years, and with success! CBM was one of the few disability and development NGOs being invited to the meeting.

 

During the course of the two days, a number of key messages emerged:

  1. The world needs more and better data, in order for decision-makers to design good policies and programmes.
  2. But data are not only for decision-makers, they are equally important for people and their daily life. For example, more reliable data on weather conditions can help farmers to decide when to plant, a massive potential gain in terms of food security and livelihood.
  3. There are many good initiatives and innovations regarding data, but it is now vital to bring these together, in order to maximize their potential. The meeting showed a great deal of political commitment by many actors to improve investments in data, but illustrated also a growing number of concrete initiatives that already exist including at the grassroots. For CBM, the data revolution will continue to be an important topic, not only in promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in such political debates, but also very concretely in our programmatic work. From my point of view, it would be desirable to show case             at upcoming meetings of a similar nature CBM and its partners’ projects that highlight how data disaggregated by disability helped to improve e.g. educational services at community level. Because it is really at that level that data should make a difference!

 

Disability, Development and Data – The Triple D in the Arab Region

Hosted by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN ESCWA), I had the pleasure to represent CBM at the”Expert Group Meeting on the ESCWA Publication entitled Disability in the Arab Region 2017“. This meeting took place on 11th and 12th of April in Beirut and had the objective of making inputs into a publication on the     situation of persons with disabilities in the Arab Region, a publication UN ESCWA is planning to release on December 3rd this year. More specifically, the publication will be looking at the latest developments regarding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, its linkages to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), as well as at models of social protection in the region.

 

My role was to give a global perspective on the linkages between the 2030 Agenda and the CRPD and to present the work that CBM has been doing in that area over the last years. In addition to sharing a number of concrete text changes to the draft publication, I was very pleased to see that     CBM’s work was already quite well known by many participants: The two pieces of work, the infographic on the linkages between the CRPD and the SDGs as well as our publication on sustainable development were often quoted by speakers, in addition to being   brought to the table by me.

 

One session was devoted to the subject of data and statistics on disability. That session highlighted, once again, that there is still a great deal of confusion about what to measure, what methodology to use etc. At the same time, it also clearly brought forward the willingness to work across different countries of the region, in a view to find a harmonised approach and in order to learn from each other.

 

All in all, it struck me that there was a very high turn-out at the meeting of Governmental representatives. This underscores a good degree of political will to further the rights of persons with disabilities in the Arab Region and CBM was often mentioned as a key actor to help make that happen!