On Monday 26 June 2014, the Italian Network for Disability and Development (RIDS), with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), presented the Italian Development Cooperation Disability Action Plan. The event was hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels, and key guests included Giampaolo Cantini, Director of the General Directorate for Development from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Gunta Ança, Board Member of the European Disability Forum (EDF) as well as representatives of other EU member states. Meena Paudel from the Nepal Disabled Women Organisation illustrated, with her very personal story, why it is so important to include persons with disability in international cooperation and why despite some progress a lot still remains to be done.
Persons with Disabilities as active actors for future development
The Italian Development Cooperation Disability Action Plan, published in October 2013, was presented by Mina Lomuscio, Disability Expert in the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The action plan is the successful outcome of an interactive dialogue between organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs), government, academic institutions and other stakeholders. It aims to promote the rights of persons with a disability, and it is based on five pillars: (1) Policies and strategies; (2) Inclusive project planning & design; (3) Accessible and usable environments, goods and services; (4) Humanitarian aid and responses to emergency situations; (5) Leveraging the experience and skills acquired by civil society and companies.
The importance of disability inclusion in international cooperation is more and more recognised by both the EU and its member states. Ingar Duering from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zussamenarbeit (GIZ) made it very clear that the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international cooperation is not just a human right, since the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) by Germany, but it is also a binding commitment.
Following the good examples from Italy and Germany, other EU member states such as Spain are now also working on establishing a national disability action plan for international cooperation. With regard to the EU, Hélène Bourgade from the European Commission, DG DEVCO explained that even though the EU does not have an Action Plan on the inclusion of disability, the institutions are supporting inclusion using the Italian Development Cooperation Disability Action Plan as a best practice example. This support addresses both the political and policy level and the implementation, for example the organisation of a training session on disability for EU delegations. She also stressed the willingness of the EU to cooperate with both DPOs and EU member states to address disability issues in international cooperation. Giampiero Griffo, from the Italian Network for Disability and Development (RIDS), welcomed the efforts made by the European Union but also mentioned the need for a specific Action Plan on disability inclusion in EU international cooperation.
It was recognised by all speakers and the audience, which included representatives from many other EU member states, that the Italian Development Cooperation Disability Action Plan is a good example of how to use an inclusive approach when developing an action plan for inclusive development cooperation. There was also agreement that it is an example which could be followed by the European Commission itself, by other European member states and by partner countries when developing targeted action plans for inclusive development.
2015 as the inflexion point for inclusive development
A key point raised numerous times is the unique opportunity presented by the ongoing post-2015 negotiations, to raise awareness on disability rights and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the international development agenda .Both the EU and its member states should strongly support a human rights based approach towards disability and development in the post 2015 framework. This means to integrate disability into suggested specific goals such as universal health coverage and equitable access to education and employment, but also to have disability as a cross-cutting issue throughout the framework, for example by collecting disaggregated data based on disability. In order to integrate such a human rights based approach into the post-2015 framework, it is essential that the EU and its member states cooperate with civil society and more in particular with disability rights organisations (DPOs).
The EU, a key stakeholder in the post-2015 discussions, has already declared 2015 to be the European Year for Development. Javier Guemes from the European Disability Forum (EDF) stressed that this will be a crucial moment which the European and international disability movement should use to promote inclusive development and raise public awareness on disability and development issues. Collaboration with partner countries, governments, civil society and the private sector and expertise sharing are essential.