The annual observance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3 in 1992. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of the society and development, and to increase awareness on the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, according to the United Nations (UN). This year, the day was marked by the global community with the theme ‘Transformation toward Sustainable and Resilient Society’. Aditya Neupane of My City interviewed Suraj Sigdel, country director of CBM Nepal Country Office, a development organization committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in poorest communities of the world, to understand his view on the status of people with disabilities. Following are the edited excerpts
How do you relate the theme for 2017 International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) with the present context of Nepal?
This year’s theme focuses on enabling the conditions of people with disabilities for their transformative changes envisaged in the 2030 development agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Nepal being member of the UN, this theme is very pertaining and relevant. As the rights of persons with disabilities have yet to be fully realised in Nepal, their rights and their well-being in all spheres of the society and development is must for sustainable development. According to the Nepal population census 2011, the disability prevalence rate is around two percent in Nepal. In this context, social transformation is not possible without involving persons with disabilities in every sector. Following the core genesis of SDG ‘no one is left behind’ Nepal government should acknowledge rights of persons with disabilities and mainstream their voice and demands.
What are the prevailing challenges in creating a sustainable and resilient society for persons with disabilities?
I see policy, participation, money and county’s context as the major challenging issues in the process of transformation for persons with disabilities. In my observation, there is a big funding gap in the disability programming. The government has limited budget dedicated to persons with disabilities. To achieve the SDGs, there is a need of continuous and substantial fund until 2030. With extremely limited funding from the government, there is a less chance of realization of the transformative action. In addition to this, we also have negligible financial support from the developmental partners in the area of disability. In this situation of dual crisis, realizing the IDPD theme is not easy.
In regards to the resilience, as we all are aware that Nepal is a natural as well as man-made disaster prone country like earthquake, landslide, flash flood, erosion, wild fire, lightning, traffic accident and drought. Persons with disabilities in a poor country with such conditions have an extremely difficult time to cope with these disasters as they are at high risk.
What are the actions as well as measures that the government, civil society and other stakeholders have been taking to ensure that all stages of development are inclusive of and accessible for persons with disabilities?
In Nepal, the government has taken some tangible measures. However, the initiatives, according to DPOs and other disability rights activists, have a long way to go for the transformative changes. Recently, Nepal’s parliament endorsed a new Disability Rights Act, a robust rights-based legislation, which is an important step for persons with disabilities in the country. If implemented effectively, this law will ensure basic rights of persons with disabilities. Further, this law has acknowledged human rights-based approach to tackle disabilities issues.
I also see a strong civil society promoting rights of persons with disabilities in Nepal. Self-led organizations such as National Federation of the Disabled Nepal (NFND) are leading the disability movement in Nepal.
In my opinion, collective efforts should be taken from all concerned stakeholders to ensure that development efforts are inclusive of and accessible for persons with disabilities. Further, awareness and empowerment activities should go hand in hand so that no person with disability will be left behind from development endeavours.
What efforts should be made to improve the implementation of disability inclusive development, especially with regard to the implementation of the SDGs and other national as well as international development agendas?
Nepal’s National Planning Commission has formed various thematic working committees to look after the country’s policy need and implementation of SDGs. I feel that the process of disability inclusive development will be faster and effective if the government involves persons with disabilities in decision-making process. It is equally important that the government ensures disability disaggregated data as envisaged by the SDGs.
The election of local bodies has provided an opportunity to include persons with disabilities in decision-making and implementation process of local development process. The government should always acknowledge international instruments with regard to rights of persons with disabilities. Participation of all is primary condition for just, inclusive and sustainable societies.
Disclaimer: The idea shared in this document is personal experience of Suraj Sigdel and does not necessarily reflect CBM International’s views.