European Development Days (EDD), organised by the European Commission took place in Brussels on the 18th and 19th of June. The aim of the conference is to bring the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. It is one of Europe’s biggest development conferences and it includes a participatory programme, with 745 exhibitions, 860 sessions and around 66 500 participants. The overarching title for this year was “Addressing inequalities: building a world which leaves no one behind”.
The subthemes were the following:
- Why inequalities matter for sustainable development
- Understanding the structural causes of inequalities
- Working better together through more effective policies to address inequalities
The European Disability Forum (EDF) was very active during these two days, contributing to three sessions that took place on the first day, and other parallel meetings. EDF’s President, Yannis Vardakastanis was a speaker at three different panels and had the opportunity to share EDF’s work in international cooperation, the perspective of persons with disabilities and DPOs.
EDF’s President had a productive bilateral meeting with Henriette Geiger, Director of People and Peace at DG DEVCO to ensure a strong collaboration between DPOs and DG DEVCO. EDF suggested the organisation of a Global Disability Summit, similar to the one in London and Argentina, as well as streghthening the capacity building of regional DPOs.
From the secretariat, Marion Steff (SDGs Coordinator), Lucía D’Arino (International Cooperation and Communications Officer) and Ioanna Tsigiridi (Policy Assistant on e-accessibility), were present to support EDF’s work and visibility.
The first session was a high-level panel titled “Making visible the invisible: A disability-inclusive approach for leaving no one behind”. The panelists discussed the importance of active and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in democracy and decision making processes concerning development and international cooperation. The organisers were ONCE, Lumos, the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), Bridging the Gap and EDF. Mr Vardakastanis shared the work of EDF by presenting our new international cooperation strategy and expressed that “persons with disabilities must be engaged in international cooperation not just as beneficiaries but also as experts”.
The second session was a report launch titled “Falling through the cracks: Exposing inequalities in the European Union and beyond”, organised by ‘Make Europe Sustainable for All (MESA)’ and SDG Watch Europe. The new report (focused on SDGs 10 reduced inequalities) provides national pictures of the various forms of inequalities at the EU level by providing an overview of 15 countries. It also includes an overview on individual forms of inequalities in its thematic chapters, where EDF had the pleasure to contribute. Mr Vardakastanis highlighted during the session that “persons with disabilities are facing widespread and daily discrimination and exclusion – we will not wait another decade to act and call for action”.
The third session titled “Making inclusion in humanitarian settings a reality” was organised by DG ECHO, Humanity and Inclusion, Finland (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and EDF. It included the presentation of DG ECHO’s guidance note on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in EU-funded humanitarian aid operations by Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management European in DG ECHO. EDF welcomes the initiative to raise awareness and discuss good practices to ensure better, safer, more accessible and inclusive humanitarian aid. We officially asked ECHO to join the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network and contribute to the GLAD humanitarian action working group. Finland is the focal point along UNICEF.
Many stands and exhibitions were displayed during the 2 day conference, including the IDDC photo exhibition: “Together for Inclusion – Inclusive development in action” that depicts persons with disabilities, in the context of middle income countries or low income countries, with the objective to raise awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities. A new photo contest is open, the deadline for submissions is the 18th of August.
We have worked with DG DEVCO, IDDC and Bridging the Gap to ensure that the overall organisation of the EDDs is more inclusive to persons with disabilities. Despite major improvements being made in comparison to last year, there is still a lot of work to be done. We will provide our feedback for this year to the organisers to ensure the EDDs are accessible to all in the upcoming years, and more measures are taken to prevent persons with disabilities from fully participating and contributing to this two-days event.
We thank our members, partners and collaborators for their work and contribution to raise awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities and defend their rights. Let’s continue fighting for the pledge ‘leave no one behind’ becomes reality! We look forwards to next year’s EDDs and EDF’s continued contribution.