During the last week of February 2020, we warmly welcomed the Executive members of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) for a week of events and meetings in Brussels.
This included a high level meeting with representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, an evening reception to present our new Guidance note on the role of European DPOs in international cooperation and a joint conference with IDA entitled “Inclusive international cooperation: Making it a reality!” on the 29 February.
Reception “Role of European Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (DPOs) in International Cooperation”
On 28 February, we presented the guidance note “The Role of European Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (DPOs) in International Cooperation” during an evening reception.
The reception included a discussion moderated by Ana Lucia Arellano (IDA Chair) and Mette Müller Kristensen (International Director, Disabled Peoples Organisations Denmark), panellists Yannis Vardakastanis (EDF President), Mark Harrison (independent expert), Virginia Carcedo (Once Social Group) and Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame (Sightsavers’ Global Advocacy Advisor and UN CPRD Committee Member). They spoke about how the guidance note can contribute to ensure inclusion in international cooperation. Topics covered included power dynamics, legal obligations, technical expertise, financial sustainability and coherence between national and international policies and programmes.
Inclusive international cooperation: Making it a reality
The reception was followed by our joint conference with IDA on Saturday morning “Inclusive international cooperation: Making it a reality!”. This conference brought together speakers from several international organisations, including the African Disability Forum, the International Disability Alliance, the United Nations and the European Commission.
The importance of European Union funding
Pat Clarke, our Vice-President opened the conference by underlining the importance of EU as a donor in international cooperation and development. “The EU is a major donor on the international field. All EU funded actions need to uphold the principles of accessibility, dignity and the rights of persons with disabilities.”
Ana Lucia Arellano, Chair of the International Disability Alliance, said that the next EU budget must ensure accessible and inclusive international cooperation, especially considering that the European Union is the only regional organisation to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Henriette Geiger, Director for Directorate People and Peace (within the European Commission’s Directorate-General International Cooperation and Development), opened by stating the need for disability inclusion to take center stage in development cooperation. She highlighted that the EU funded over 400 disability specific projects in its development cooperation programmes. She added that “development policies need to be inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities.”
Cecile Grosjean, EDF independent expert, spoke about our work regarding the future EU Budget post 2021 for international cooperation and development. She explained that we need more and stronger advocacy to ensure that disability is satisfactorily included in final texts of regulations. For this, participants need to advocate not only to the European Commission but also with their national ministries.
Johannes Trimmel, President of CONCORD, reinforced the need to work on the text of programming guidelines as they are essential to ensure EU international cooperation and aid programmes will be disability inclusive:
“If we don’t get disability in the basic documents now, it will be very difficult to hold the EU accountable in the future”
He also highlighted some of the challenges that exist in identifying key entry points for disability inclusion in the five new priorities of the European commission.
Idriss Alzouma Maiga, Chair of African Disability Forum, called on the EU to support the development of organisations of persons with disabilities in their partner countries. It is very important that the EU has a direct dialogue with, and promotes the involvement of, persons with disabilities in partner countries. Idriss highlighted the importance of EU engagement with civil society organisations, but he also pointed out that persons with disabilities are often invisible in this forum and that as a result, specific and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities is always essential.
Tools for inclusion
Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, stressed that the involvement of persons with disabilities in international cooperation must ensure the diversity of disabilities and the diversity of persons with disabilities that are also part of other marginalized communities (women, young people, LGBTI, etc.)
Stefanie Gregorius, Advisor, Global Project Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, German Development Cooperation (GIZ), presented the work of the GLAD Network, a body that coordinates donors and agencies in international cooperation. She explained how the network facilitates sharing of good practice, for example for DPO involvement and in country trainings, and she stated that more engagement and leadership from the EU on this platform would be welcome, and beneficial for all.
Facundo Chávez Penillas presented the pioneer UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, adopted last year, which guides inclusion of persons with disabilities in UN programmes, institutions and activities. He said the strategy will change the way that we advocate, providing new opportunities for DPOs to engage with the UN. He went on to discuss that reporting to the strategy is demanding but, when agencies are sincere and reflective, even the first reports will provide a good baseline for the future.
Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance, spoke about the importance of seizing the momentum that exists since the Global Disability Summit in 2018. He added that the disability movement now needs to be demanding. We need to demand more investment and real inclusion in international cooperation.
Nadia Hadad closed the meeting by asking participants to advocate for more funding in international cooperation and that no EU money should be used to segregate persons with disabilities.