In 2000, when the UN created the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—eight international development goals for reducing poverty and improving the welfare of the world’s poorest people—disability was not mentioned. As Handicap International has known from working with people with disabilities for over 30 years, this oversight was tremendous.
“With an estimated one billion people living with a disability in the world today, people with disabilities are the world’s largest minority group, and cannot be ignored,” says Priscille Geiser, Handicap International's Head Civil Society Technical Advisor. “Since people with disabilities have historically been overlooked, they are often those who need development the most.”
With the world now two years away from the MDG benchmark of 2015, a new discussion is emerging: How do we change international development to ensure the inclusion of all people? This week in New York, the topic of how to better include people with disabilities in development is being explored during the UN High-Level Meeting on Disability, being held concurrently during the UN General Assembly.
For the meeting, a diverse group is representing Handicap International, including Priscille Geiser, Development Advocacy Officer Jeanne Battello, Rehabilitation Technical Advisor Antony Duttine, and Researcher Rebecca Berman.
During the meeting, Duttine will present on a panel discussing the needs and challenges of people with disabilities in receiving adequate and nondiscriminatory health and social services. As the week progresses, Handicap International will be sharing stories on important outcomes, advocating for the full inclusion of people with disabilities and vulnerable populations as we approach the 2015 deadline, and looking at the way forward for the coming decades.
It's important for people with disabilities to have a say in what their needs are, Battello notes. These needs need to be considered “from the beginning—what they truly want—to form a real agenda, where people are holding their countries and governments accountable.” Geiser adds that a truly inclusive agenda will ensure people with disabilities get their "fair share" of development benefits.
In addition to the outreach happening in New York, Handicap International has joined with 13 other organizations in issuing a press release urging member states of the United Nations to prioritize humanitarian aid to Syrians.