– “If you are not at the table, then you are on the menu”

Group picture of members of DCDD, WO=MEN and Partos with minister Liesje Schreinemacher

On May 9th 2022, a round table discussion took place with Dutch Minister Schreinemacher in collaboration with WO=MEN and Partos. Lieke Scheewe (DCDD coordinator) gave the pitch you can find below, to provide input for the new Foreign Trade & Development Cooperation policy that the Minister will publish at the end of June. Read the 6 pitches from all participating organisations here [link coming soon].

“On behalf of the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development, WO=MEN and Partos, I will make recommendations for equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation. Especially for those with several of these characteristics.

I am a woman with a disability. I am no exception in that regard. Twenty percent of women worldwide have a disability. However, it is exceptional that I am sitting at this table today. Within the Dutch government, less than 0.5% of politicians and policy makers have a disability. This is no different for companies and organisations. At tables where decisions are taken, our voices are absent. And that has consequences for the effectiveness of policy.

Unfortunately, the current situation in Ukraine shows this clearly. People with disabilities who call on humanitarian aid agencies often hear that accessible transport or suitable shelter cannot be arranged. People of colour, trans women, men who are deaf or have HIV also report discrimination at the border. They all depend on initiatives and organisations that arise from their own communities. Out of necessity. Because the mainstream systems are not designed for diversity.

These smaller local organisations know exactly where the bottlenecks are, but they rarely have access to funds and are also rarely invited at decision-making and coordination level to participate in discussions about the types of support that are needed. It is not without reason that the death rate among people with disabilities during conflict and natural disasters is 2 to 4 times higher than average. As they say: if you are not at the table, then you are on the menu.

Therefore the following recommendations:

  1. First of all, be very deliberate in inviting representatives of marginalized groups to tables where decisions are made about humanitarian aid, international trade, climate, digitisation and development programmes. Ensure that embassies maintain active relationships with these groups, with the opportunity to co-develop, implement and evaluate policies and programmes.
  2. And finally, take a very systematic approach to promoting equal opportunities, by developing an implementation plan for mainstreaming gender and diversity in all departments of the Ministry. That includes establishing focal points with the mandate and resources to implement change.”

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