Lovemore Rambiyawo Correspondent
Ensuring disability inclusion is a mammoth task that needs the collaboration and commitment of all stakeholders if we are to attain the goal of full and effective participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in all spheres of social, civil, economic, political and cultural life.
This is envisaged in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
Following the realisation that disability issues are intractable, the UNCRPD has been complemented by the production of guidelines for disability inclusion in various spheres of life by global development players.
Toolkits for inclusion and accessibility have become the order of the day; benchmarks and best practices for disability in disability inclusion have been produced and widely circulated.
It is evident that collaboration by multilateral stakeholders to ensure disability inclusion and participation is at an all time high.
As early as 2008, the Center for Creative Leadership in USA, realised that the traditional leadership concept which is basically a tripod where we have leaders and followers interacting around common goals, was becoming less useful in understanding leadership contexts in environments that were becoming increasingly more peer-like and collaborative.
A new concept was proposed based on direction, alignment and commitment (DAC).
Direction is defined as widespread agreement in a collective on overall goals, aims, and mission.
Alignment is the organization and coordination of knowledge and work in a collective and commitment is the willingness of members of a collective to subsume their own interests and benefit within the collective interest and benefit.
According to this concept, what defines leadership is the presence or production of these three outcomes – direction, alignment and commitment- in any undertaking.
Direction has been vindicated in disability inclusion as the UNCRPD has become the most swiftly ratified international treaty with 175 ratifications.
Over 90 percent of the total membership of the United Nations has ratified, together with the European Union.
There is significance in this, it attests to the importance and urgency of addressing issues affecting people with disabilities.
On alignment, or the coordination of knowledge and work in the collective, global developmental partners have produced an imposing arrray of guidelines on disabiliity inclusion. These include Guidelines for Providing Rights-Based and Gender Responsive Services to Address Gender-Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health; Family Planning for Women and Girls with Disabilities and inclusion of people with disabilities in national employment policies.
Other guidelines include how to include persons with disabilities in elections and political processes; guidance on strengthening disability inclusion in humanitarian response plans.
The list goes on and on, ad infinitum and is complemented by toolkits and best practices on disability inclusion. This also attests to the presence of commitment, or the willingness among global development partners to subsume their own interests to the collective interests of disability inclusion.
As evidenced by the presence of direction, alignment and commitment, it is manifestly evident that there is leadership in disability inclusion at a global level.
The United Nations family has not been found wanting in the disability inclusion stakes and has scaled new heights in promoting the rights of people with disabilities globally through a collaborative framework that is the epitome of direction, alignment and commitment.
It has created the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), a unique collaborative effort that brings together UN entities, governments, Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) and the broader civil society to advance disability rights around the world. In particular, the UNPRPD supports coalition-building and capacity-development at country level to facilitate the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
In doing so, it contributes to the realization of a “society for all” in the 21st century. The UN entities participating in the UNPRPD are the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The UNDP Poverty Group serves as the Technical Secretariat for the Partnership.
Launched on December 8, 2011, in New York, the UNPRPD works through a Multi Donor Trust Fund around the four thematic areas of capacity development for the ratification and implementation of the CRPD; establishment or strengthening of mechanisms enhancing dialogue between States, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations and United Nations Country Tea,s (UNCTs). It also focuses on breaking statistical invisibility by supporting the production of relevant data on persons with disabilities and barriers to their full participation and inclusion; and development and promotion of mechanisms to prevent development funds from creating or perpetuating barriers to participation and inclusion.
Key Thematic, Global and Regional Priorities include: Research on thematic issues; Technical, policy and legal advisory services; Knowledge management, including collection and dissemination of good practices, production of training curricula, guidelines and tools; Networking and exchange of experiences; and, Promotion of persons with disabilities’ participation.
The UNPRPD supports 38 country-level joint UN programmes on disability rights across all regions, as well as two regional initiatives providing assistance to umbrella organizations of persons with disabilities in Africa and the Pacific. In addition, two global programs have been supported by the Partnership, aimed respectively at promoting the participation of persons with disabilities in post-2015 negotiations and developing a ‘One UN’ approach to disability statistics.
As testimony to its global uptake, to date the UNPRPD Fund has received the generous support of Australia, Cyprus, Finland, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.
In Zimbabwe, the UNPRPD is implementing a two year project titled: “Advancing the Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Zimbabwe, ”. The project, running in 20 districts, is being implemented by the United Nations Cultural and Scientific Organisation ( UNESCO) Regional Office for Southern Africa, United Nations Development Fund ( UNDP) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Zimbabwe Country Offices. An advisory group consisting of UNICEF, UN Women, the implementing agencies, government, and Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) was created to oversee its execution.
The objectives of the project are to amplify the voices of Zimbabwean women and girls with disabilities based on evidence supported needs, aspirations, and priorities;to address the pervasive negative cultural norms. Other objectives include to advocate for improved response and prevention to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and access to sexual reproductive health (SRH); and, to engender a human rights based approach to SRH service delivery and access to justice, all of which will advance CRPD Articles 6, 8, 13, 23, and 25.
To ensure excellence in programmatic implementation, each UN entity is implementing the project in line with its recognised area of thematic expertise. UNESCO, recognised globally for its cultural expertise, is addressing the issue of negative cultural beliefs on disability, dominant attitudes and stereotypes, identified through research, in order to break down the invisibility of women and girls with disabilities through understanding their experiences.
UNFPA, which has distinctive competences in sexual and reproductive health, is addressing the vexing issue of access to sexual and reproductive health services to women and girls with disabilities. UNDP is working on ensuring access to justice for women and girls with disabilities in line with Article 13 of the CRPD. Domestication of the CRPD and ensuring an appropriate disability policy in place is a cross cutting issue across the intervention.
there is a refreshing and multifacetted global move towards achieving wholesome direction, alignment and commitment to disability rights and disability inclusion.
unfortunately in Zimbabwe, disability continues to fall through the cracks of developmental interventions.
Lovemore Rambiyawo, who is physically-impaired, is Acting Executive Director of National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH). NASCOH is an umbrella body to 70 disability organisations in Zimbabwe.
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