Forty representatives of national councils of persons with disabilities from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda met in Kigali, Rwanda from 8-11 August to explore ways in which they can promote disability-inclusive development in East Africa.
National councils of persons with disabilities are specialized government agencies on disability concerns and they exist to provide support to other government departments to include concerns on persons with disabilities in all aspects of government programme planning and implementation. In some countries, they are also responsible for service delivery to persons with disabilities.
The Kigali meeting was hosted by the National Council of Persons with Disabilities in Rwanda and was organised in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) was invited to make a presentation on disability inclusion in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals, officially known as “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” are an intergovernmental set of 17 goals with 169 targets.
Participants in the meeting recognized that 2016 is an important year as it marks the first year in the global and national implementation of the SDGs. They acknowledged that advocacy work in disability inclusion is needed, especially during these early stages of planning, implementation and monitoring of the SDG framework. They noted it is imperative that organisations of persons with disabilities are well-informed and equipped to follow up and to assert their participation in the planning, implementation and monitoring of these development agendas.
The SDGs contain language on disability at least five times, noted Dr Samuel Kabue, EDAN coordinator. “This was only possible because of the participation, involvement and spirited advocacy campaign by persons with disabilities and their organisations during the process of the development of the framework,” he said. “There is need to sustain this campaign beyond having these mentions to ensure that this spirit of ‘leave no one behind’ is followed through to regional, national and local implementation processes.”
Participants also discussed a major development initiative taking place in East Africa in 2016: the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). The conference, which will be held on 27-28 August in Nairobi, will be the first TICAD summit to be held on the African continent in more than 20 years. In light of this, participants at the meeting in Rwanda developed a joint statement to encourage TICAD participants to take more coordinated regional actions for disability inclusive development.
Specifically, participants committed to promote disability inclusion in the implementation and monitoring of SDGs in east Africa in the following ways:
— Tap the goodwill the East African Community has shown on disability inclusion. The community already has a disability law and policy in place.
— Make use of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to facilitate the attainment of the rights provided by the SDGs to persons with disabilities. Apart from South Sudan, the other five members of the East African Community have signed and ratified the CRPD.
— Play a significant role in development and implementation of public policy to ensure the needs of persons with disabilities are addressed in policy process.
— Seek to have the councils of persons with disabilities in the partner states connected with the SDG-related focal points.
— Recognize and include women with disabilities in the process of disability inclusion in development.
Finally, the meeting called on governments in East Africa Community partner states to strengthen the functions of national councils for persons with disabilities as major actors for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.