African voices: “Our expectations; GDS past and present”
The Atlas-alliance has asked some of the African DPOs about their experience with the last GDS, London 2018, and their wishes for Oslo, 2022. The organizations giving input were: National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda NUDIPU, Uganda, Malawi Union of the Blind (MUB); Special Olympics Zambia: Inclusion Africa – Kenya, SBH (Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus) Uganda and Malawi, Inclusion Uganda and Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD).
Promising trends in Uganda
The respondents from Uganda had different views, but to some the summit in London is seen as having had national significance. The Ugandan commitments were launched in a pre GDS meeting held in Uganda. These commitments have since formed the basis of national advocacy work. The government has since the GDS meeting increased the disability grant from 3 to 5 billion Ugandan shillings. The persons with disabilities Act 2020 was passed and a study about persons with disabilities in Uganda was also conducted.
The British agency DFID, working with the Ministry of gender, has funded a situation study, and guidelines for the special grant and printing of the act known as Persons with Disabilities Act 2020 has been done. Right now, processes are in place to develop the regulations to operationalize the Persons with Disabilities Act 2020
The government of Uganda is also empowering all teachers with special needs training to cater for education for all.
But it is a mixed picture
On the other hand, also in Uganda, the GDS is better known by a small number of people in disability respective ministries, and the DPOs at national level have more knowledge than in rural areas.
The same is said of the situation in Kenya and in Malawi. The general awareness of the GDS 2018 is still very low among DPOs, especially in the rural areas and among DPOs of underrepresented groups, such as persons with intellectual disabilities and their families and persons who are deafblind. As for the national authorities the commitments are basically known to officers in charge of disability.
SAFOD states that most of the DPOs/federations had not even heard about the Global Disability Summit in London. For example, in Botswana, they indicated that they were neither aware whether anyone from Government participated in the summit nor were they aware of any charter of commitments to that effect. The few federations that participated in the summit had never been able to engage with their counterparts from the government side. There was one surprising exception though, writes SAFOD, the federation in Zimbabwe. FODPZ participated together with officials from the government in a very collaborative manner, and with a lot of transparency.
As a direct consequence of the 2018 GDS, the process of “domestication” of the CRPD, which Zimbabwe ratified in 2013, has started. The process of formulation of the national disability policy was expedited after the summit. Since then, there were a series of consultations on the policy up to March 2020 and the document is said to be ready for submission to the cabinet committee on legislation. Zimbabwe is also reviewing an Act of Parliament on disability and the process mainly involves incorporating CRPD principles. Following the summit, they have now created a special department on disability affairs which had earlier failed to materialize since 1992.
What themes should be central to Oslo GDS 2022?
Organizations have different constituencies. But some themes seem to be deemed important by most, including inclusive education; access to employment for people with disabilities; sexual reproductive health; monitoring and evaluation tools; early childhood intervention; policy analysis; participation and governance.
A specific point is made of the need to elevate the visibility of intellectual disability as a theme. This includes increasing investment in inclusive programming in support of individuals with intellectual disabilities in the areas of education and economic empowerment. Likewise, there is need of building legal capacity in order to ensure that also persons with intellectual disabilities are allowed to stand as a witness in courts of law.
Sports is highlighted as an inclusive arena and using sport as a tool in reaching the SDGs and leaving no one behind is important.
Disaster response, conflict situations and disability merits closer scrutiny, especially now with the Covid 19 pandemic.
How to go about organizing GDS 2022?
At the regional and country level there should be deliberate efforts to include DPOs from the onset of the planning meetings. There must be self-representation of persons with disabilities during decision-making processes. It is also important to ensure organizations and voices of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families are heard. Efforts should be made to build national database capacity for various disabilities, including “rare disability” like SBH.
There is need for the secretariat of the GDS to ensure stakeholder engagement is widened to include the private sector. Likewise, we need to develop national action plan to ensure the agreed positions are documented and followed up in structured manner.
It might be good to establish a follow-up advocacy and lobby committee at the national level. We could also create a task force right away from the GDS comprising of respective country representatives and set out the expectations in terms of follow up and reporting.
In terms of how the results from GDS 2022 can be followed up at country level, it is important to strengthen communication between whichever Key Stakeholder Group (KSG) that might be set up to follow up on the status of implementation of the commitments which will be made in Oslo, on one hand, and the county-level structures on the other hand.
Regional umbrella organizations could help in popularizing the commitments from the summit among the DPOs. It would be difficult for most of the DPOs to meaningfully engage governments if most of them do not know much about the commitments and the roles that their governments played.
Likewise, a strong capacity-building component of national affiliates to enable them to engage with their governments on matters related specifically to made commitments could be important.