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Beyond the Millennium Development Goals

2 October 2013
Posted by Lucy Drescher

Fifteen per cent of the world's population lives with a disability (World Health Organisation World Report on Disability 2011), yet in the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) there isn't a single mention of disability.

The MDGs are eight goals for tackling poverty around the world that were officially established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000.

This is a situation that disabled people and their organisations really want to see change, because it has meant that people with disabilities have largely been ignored by the development plans of governments and donors. One of the results of this is that nearly half (24 million) of the 57 million children not in school have some form of disability. We know that deafblind children are particularly highly represented amongst this group.

The United Nations is currently leading a consultation process to decide on what should replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. A High Level Panel chaired by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, along with the Prime Minsters of Indonesia and Liberia, met between autumn 2012 and spring 2013, and representatives from a number of UN member states presented a report to the Secretary General at the end of May this year.

The UN High Level Panel report included a really positive proposal of a transformational shift, to 'leave no one behind'.

Disabled people and their organisations got involved in the consultation led by the High Level Panel and were very relieved to see mentions of disability in the report, which included a really positive proposal of a transformational shift, to 'leave no one behind'. It said "The next development agenda must ensure that in the future neither income nor gender, nor ethnicity, nor disability, nor geography, will determine whether people live or die, whether a mother can give birth safely, or whether her child has fair chance of life."

It also called from a 'data revolution' which is really positive because reliable statistics is something the disability sector struggles with. Without statistics we can count on it is very hard to make the case to governments and donors for the need to include people with disabilities in their plans.

The High Level Panel report was presented to the UN Secretary General at the end of May and he has now produced his report for the General Assembly which is meeting in New York this month. Once again we suspected that disability would not appear in the report but were really pleased to see six mentions.

As one of the co-chairs of the Bond Disability and Development group I have been working with others on ways to raise this issue with politicians both in government and opposition in the UK. We have generally received positive responses and have been pleased to hear the UK government saying that they championed the cause in the High Level Panel discussions.

The discussions in New York during the UN General Assembly last month were very positive and the Secretary General mentioned disablity in his speech at the start of the one day summit on the MDGs. However, unfortunately the outcome document from this meeting doesn't mention disability, so there is clearly more work to be done! The UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is now taking over the work on the post 2015 framework and so we will be doing all we can to influence them.

Whilst in New York, Lynne Featherstone, UK Under Secretary of State for International Development, made a very encouraging speech about the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)'s commitment to disability.  The speech included an announcement that FCDO will now only be funding the building of schools that are accessible to children with disabilities, and we will be lobbying to ensure those schools are accessible for deafblind children.

Lucy Drescher is Policy & Support Officer for Sense International

Related links

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)




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First published: Thursday 1 January 1970
Last updated: Thursday 1 January 1970