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).

Data: Is it the new Oil, Water or light for Sustainable Development?

Don’t worry, this short blog is not going to explore the meaning of the various images used in the title, but they were referenced during the 2nd UN World Data forum again and again, so I thought they might serve as a nice way to introduce this blog. All of them suggest that without data, progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be made or measured. I leave it to you to reflect further upon the different images used and which one you prefer…


The UN World Data Forum 2018 was hosted by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, of United Arab Emirates from 22 to 24 October 2018, with support from the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, under the guidance of the United Nations Statistical Commission and the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


The long list of hosts and supporting partners listed here above, will already give you an idea of howdiverse and broad the participants were. All came together, for the second Data Forum of this kind, to present and debate the need to collect, interpret and use the right data, in order to support and inform the right decisions to advance the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Forum, which was attended by over 2000 people, was held in plenary and many concurrent sessions focussing on specific topics. The programme was extremely diverse, ranging from sessions about the role of national statistical offices to the debate on whether there is a lack of public trust in data in times of social media.


In the midst of this vast programme, there was the motto of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind that was quoted as one of the key principles of the Agenda in almost all sessions! And there was broad consensus that we still have too little data about people who are left behind and about the causes for people being left behind. In that regard, data was often seen as a tool to empower people, rather than just being numbers! A clear sense of urgency came from the Data Forum to speed-up collection of data about those who are, or who are supposedly, amongst the most marginalised groups of the population. While there was agreement amongst participants that method’s to collect ata are changing and will include in the future more innovative ways (such as data collected via mobile phones), the role and recognition of citizens gathered data to inform the “official” data picture remains a matter for further discussion.


It was very positive to see that persons with disabilities were mentioned during the Data Forum in the context of leaving no one behind. This is certainly not a given in such “expert fora” and would not have been the case few years ago! At the same time, that visibility of disability data was largely made possible by the interventions of DPO representatives from within the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and its members as well as disability-focussed NGOs such as CBM. This shows that we still have a long way to go, in order to convince statisticians and the “Data Community” to really include ALL in their thinking and in their work! But the Data Forum in Dubai undoubtedly provided a positive further step in that direction!

All means All!

Over the last five days, more than 200 participants gathered in Manila to attend the East-Asia Regional Conference entitled “Rights-based Education and Sustainable Development Goals for People with Visual Impairment“. This event was organised by the International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and brought together a very divers group of people, ranging from current students who are blind or partially sighted to governmental representatives of the education sector. All united in the desire to make great progress towards the realisation of the right to education for all!


Together with my CBM colleagues Sian Tesni, Senior Advisor for Education, Rainer Güttler, Country Director Philippines and Karin van Dijk, Low-Vision Advisor I had the pleasure to be amongst the participants in this exciting conference! CBM is a founding member and long-standing supporter of ICEVI in many countries we are working in and globally.


Without even attempting to summarise the richness of discussions during the conference, the programme included a wide range of themes: From very political matters such as the Sustainable Development Goals to very practical tips on how to include learners with multiple disabilities in education. Besides many presentations, discussions and lots of thematic exchange, the conference was also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of some individuals from the Philippines and the region. For example, through the support in the high-education programme of ICEVI, a former young student now made it to the highest level of civil servants in the Philippines. This was totally unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago! Such individual achievements are not only the result of the hard work of the person and of the support provided by ICEVI, but are importantly an encouragement to other students that it is possible. They also help to break prejudices and negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities, as they show to the society as a whole the enormous potential that all people have!


Some of the other key messages coming from the conference are:

  • There is a wealth of knowledge on what works and what does not and still progress is not as fast as we want it to be.
  • The chances to fully include persons with visual impairment in education were never as high as today: There is the political commitment and imperative through the CRPD and the SDGs and many other policies and there is the huge potential through new technologies. In other words: There is no excuse!
  • Inclusion and also inclusive education should not be seen as a place; they are a process or a journey that needs to be contextualised.With all that in mind, I would like to use the phrase that was often cited during the conference and almost became a motto in its own right: All means all!

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!