The recent ‘World Disability Report’ published by the World Health Organisation and World Bank says that 15 percent of the world’s population is affected with a disability. Of this, 800 million people live in the developing world. If we take a conservative estimate, India and China alone will account for at least 200 million people with disabilities. And, if we use the 15 percent theory, our two Nations would account for as many as 400 million disabled people, more than the entire population of the United States of America. The very first point I am making is that if C.R.P.D. is truly implemented in just our two countries, this in itself will cover a huge percentage of the world’s population affected with disability.
In today’s world, India and China are not just large Nations with huge populations! We are also the emerging economies of the world. It cannot be denied that our two great Nations are shaping a significant number of global policies. What China does or India does, therefore has a huge impact on at least how the countries in the developing world, especially in Asia, Pacific, Africa, Latin America act. Therefore, if we – China Disabled Persons’ Federation and DPI-India -- could somehow ensure that disability was to become a priority issue for our two Governments, it surely would send a strong message across the globe.
C.R.P.D. has so far been able to create a ripple just to the extent that the Nations of the world are scurrying in a race to ratify. Implementation, on the other hand, has been abysmally disappointing. Whatever activity that seems to be happening in the name of C.R.P.D. is more or less limited to spreading awareness on the Convention or on preparing Parallel Reports. As important as it may be, merely creating awareness or writing Parallel Reports will not lead to the true and honest implementation of C.R.P.D.
My contention is that we have to go back to the basics once more, to the grassroots movement, to the rural villages, to the urban slums; in other words, to the average disabled person in the remotest corner of this large and complex planet.
I would therefore urge this Forum that before we begin to talk about Post-2015, we first remind ourselves, yet once again, of the slogan that Disabled People’s International (D.P.I.) made popular way back in the 1980s: ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’.
People with disabilities, themselves, must lead the implementation of the Convention. They must be at the forefront. At every forum, in every meeting room. From New York or Geneva to small towns, villages, and slums.
In the name of training and capacity building, the technocrats and the professionals must not be allowed to take over. The work in New York and Geneva is important I guess, but that alone will never lead to the implementation of C.R.P.D. The disability movement must invest in people with disabilities.
Another area where the global disability movement needs to really invest in is making alliances with other human rights movements.
When the world pronounced the Millennium Development Goals (M.D.G.s) in 2000, the global disability movement was caught napping! Inspite of the fact that there is wide spread criticism about the effectiveness of M.D.G.s, it cannot be denied that they were indeed able to make a significant change in how the world looks at the development agenda. We constantly harp on the fact that disability is a cross-cutting human rights issue. But when it came to all the 8 M.D.G.s from poverty and hunger eradication, to universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, H.I.V./A.I.D.S., environment, global partnerships -- none of them had a disability component. There are no references to persons with disabilities either in the M.D.G.s themselves or in the accompanying body of guidelines and policies and programmes.
Now that the world is talking about a post 2015 development framework, it is imperative that the disability movement worldwide ensures that disability is an integral part of any such framework. We cannot make the same mistake that we made in the years preceding the formulation of M.D.G.s.
I do have my fears. Except making a little bit of noise here and there, or fashionably talk about the post 2015 ‘disability inclusive’ development goals, I don’t find the global disability movement all that geared up for the challenge ahead.
Recently, the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness was held in Busan. There was a huge thrust on the post 2015 agenda at this Forum. On the sidelines, the Global Civil Society Forum was held. The who’s who of the global civil society was there! However, out of the hundreds of people who were there at this Forum, there were only two disabled persons. I was one of them, and right there, in that large hall, sitting on my wheelchair, I could see that perhaps the global disabled community was making another strategic error.
Rio+20 is coming up in a few days. This will be another important step towards post 2015 development framework. And again, the disability movement’s presence would at best be tokenistic.
After having taken over as the Global Chair of D.P.I. in October last year, I attended my first meeting of the International Disability Alliance (I.D.A.) in Athens in March this year. I was personally surprised, indeed disappointed, that an event as important as Rio+20 was not even listed on the Agenda!
Let there be no doubt that the post 2015 agenda will hugely impact the lives of people with disabilities, especially in the developing world. In other words, at least 800 million disabled people out of the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities are now looking up at the leaders of the global disability movement. We simply cannot afford to disappoint them yet again.