At the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York (25-27 September 2015), the Heads of State and Government adopted the 2030 Agenda, including the ambitious and far-reaching 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will now guide sustainable development efforts in all countries in the 15-year period until 2030.

Discrimination against people with disabilities is endemic, systemic and omnipresent and in a reflection of the same, this demography, comprising over 15 % of the total population of the world have been excluded once again from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will drive the global development agenda for the next decade and a half.

  • According to the World Bank, 15% of the world's population i.e. over 1 billion people live with some form of disability.
  • 80% of this population i.e. 800 million people live in developing countries of the Global South.
  • India is home to over 70 million people with disabilities and this is exclusive of people with age related disabilities.

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals in all. Of these, people with disabilities find mention under targets for only 5 Goals namely those related to quality education, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities and partnerships. There are a mere 24 mentions of the word disability across 169 targets and 231 indicators of the SDGs. In other words, the global development agenda clearly excludes people with disabilities from goals related to poverty, hunger, health, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, to name a few and these are issues that are empirically proven to impact the lives of this populace more than any other vulnerable group.

The vicious circle between poverty and disability has been well established and Goal 1 of the SDGs i.e. eradication of poverty cannot be achieved without taking into consideration a group of people that is so disproportionately represented among the country’s poorest people.

It is also an established fact that people with disabilities use public health services more than people without disabilities. Not only do they need health care and treatment for their disabilities but also many people with disabilities need to take care of secondary health conditions. Thus ironically while people with disabilities use the health care system much more than others, there exists qualitatively poor health care services and ineffective access to health care facilities for them.

Women with disabilities endure the combined disadvantages associated with gender and disability and are more likely to be vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse and social disparities .

People with disabilities are more at threat from disease and ill health, if denied access to clean water and sanitation and very often are the first to be denied the same: as the same applies to aid, rescue and rehabilitation in conflict and crisis.

Hence the exclusion of persons with disabilities as a group from the remaining SDGs is flawed and we, in the disability sector, have chosen to not accept the same.

National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) is India’s premier cross disability, advocacy organization working since 1996 as an interface between Government, Industry, International Agencies and the Voluntary Sector towards empowerment of persons with disabilities. Headquartered in New Delhi, NCPEDP has a pan India footprint through its National Disability Network (NDN) which comprises of Disabled People’s Organisations across most states and Union territories of India. NCPEDP has also instituted the National Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (NCRPD), a think tank of disability sector leaders and experts from across the country.

It was at a recent NCRPD meeting that we analysed the SDGs and, while work is still in progress, these are our findings thus far:

  1. 15 Goals of the 17 have at least 1 target or indicator that directly or indirectly impacts the lives of people with disabilities.
  2. 100 indicators and 85 targets are relevant, directly or indirectly, to people with disabilities.
  3. Of the 50 Ministries there are over 30 where at least one ormore target/ indicatorof the SDG is relevant.
  4. There are 18 Ministries where more than 5 targets are relevant and where data on persons with disabilities needs to be captured.

This finding resonated with our call over several years that disability is not an issue that can only be assigned to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment but needs to be a cross cutting mandate across all Ministries.

Our suggestions:

  • Creation of a disability expert group in the 18 critical Ministries and NITI Aayog, to ensure needs of people with disabilities are included in all policies, schemes and key initiatives.
  • Creation of uniform guidelines to all States to include Persons with Disabilities in the SDGs processes.
  • Create awareness and sensitization about the needs of people with disabilities not only with Ministry officials but trickle it down to state, district and block levels.
  • All Government initiatives that capture any data related to population or human development indicators including employment, education, poverty and hunger, future developments i.e. Smart Cities, should also be analysed from a disability perspective.
  • It is important to build capacities of those agencies/officials responsible for data collection and consensus needs to be built around the model that should be adopted while asking questions pertaining to disability.
  • Special steps undertaken to address the Goals of poverty and health for persons with disabilities.

For any further information, please contact Mr. Javed Abidi, Honorary Director, NCPEDP at abidi.j@gmail.com

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