Lineup of speakers for DCDD's 20 year anniversary

In the year 2000, a group of passionate disability inclusion professionals from The Netherlands came together and founded the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD), to learn and share practices of inclusion and to jointly advocate and lobby towards a more inclusive development sector.

20 years later, DCDD, its participants, experts, old friends and new friends, gathered virtually to celebrate this special 20th anniversary and to reflect on the journey of disability inclusion in development cooperation of the past 20 years.

The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, spoke encouraging words in her opening speech. Whereby she not only expressed her heartfelt congratulations to DCDD, but also highlighted the powerful voices of youth with disabilities and stated her commitment to the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities.

“20 years of working and fighting for inclusion of people with disabilities through international cooperation. This deserves a celebration!

Minister Sigrid Kaag

The Present

The powerful impact of DCDD and its network, coming together and exchanging good practices of inclusion, was highlighted by Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, who is the global disability advisor for the World Bank Group. Within the Bank, she drives initiatives for implementing the UN CRPD in all aspects of the work of the Bank. McClain stressed the importance of partnerships for inclusion across the development sector, especially now that the COVID crisis hits people with disabilities hard:

“It’s precisely now that we need to stay focused on disability inclusion and make sure that people with disabilities are included in all recovery efforts.”

In fact, less than 2% of development funding worldwide goes to disability-inclusive programmes, underlined Yetnerbersh Nigussie, who is the senior manager of the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network. This shows that despite the principles and obligations deriving from the UN CRPD and SDGs a major funding gap remains. The GLAD Network is a unique coordination body and learning platform for bilateral and multilateral donors and agencies, the private sector, and foundations, who work together to increase their impact on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international development and humanitarian action.

One critical part of ensuring that funds target disability inclusion is data. As Nigussie states: “Data is critically important for us if we want to advance disability inclusion from promise to practice!” The introduction of the OECD-DAC disability marker in 2018 presents a milestone towards better monitoring of disability inclusive programmes. All development actors need to invest in collecting more robust and disaggregated data on persons with disabilities to document what works and where improvements are needed. Especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, which pushed more than 100 million people back into poverty, we now, more than ever need to stay focused on the cause towards achieving disability inclusion.

The Past

That’s where we stand today. But how did we get here? How did Dutch collaboration around disability and development evolve 20 years ago? DCDD’s co-founder Huib Cornielje, who is also the director and founder of Enablement, reflects on the history of the network: which was born out of the idea that joint learning and joint lobby were needed to advance the cause of more disability inclusive development. “We see now [20 years later] that the Dutch ministry of development or foreign affairs have a stronger interest in disability” states Cornielje.

However, the fight for equal opportunities goes back to the 1970s and was put forward by disabled people themselves, especially since the 1980s, says Paul van Trigt, a historian at Leiden University and postdoc researcher on the project called ‘Rethinking Disability’. The establishment of the UN CRPD in 2006, with a special article on international cooperation, presented a milestone for the persons with disabilities to be recognized as rights holders. “What started the drafting of the UN CRPD is the high involvement of people with disabilities themselves. That’s really unique in the history of the making of international law,“ Paul highlights.

Johan Wesemann, one of the first chairpersons of DCDD’s board, remembers those days, in which he was one of the few Dutch representatives with a disability who was involved in the international debates. Wesemann comments: “The recognition of persons with disabilities in international development was a huge achievement.” Persons with disabilities have become much more visible on political agendas across the world, as well as in The Netherlands, which has sparked a major transformation in looking at disability inclusion as a social and human rights issue rather than a medical issue.

The Future

After the ratification of the UN CRPD, new discourses, collaborations and narratives had to be established in the field to ensure the implementation of the convention across sectors. We need to also recognise the diversity of people with disabilities, emphasized Nidhi Goyal, who is the director of Rising Flame India and a gender and disability activist. As for example women with disabilities are worldwide at a higher risk of marginalisation and violence. “We need to acknowledge the reality that intersectionality is our life and inclusion is our need. Only inclusion can ensure that we grow together and truly live in this world that weaves multiple realities and colors together.” she says. To reach the global commitment towards ‘leave no one behind’ in the 2030 Agenda, full accessibility, participation, disability mainstreaming and intersectional policies must be supported by swift global action. In Goyal’s words: “We have waited long enough, take big steps, take joint action!”

We have achieved a lot over the years and we are looking forward to the years still to come: strengthening inclusive policies, programmes and each other!

Would you like to hear more? Click here to view the recording of our online event.

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