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“Diversity is a fact, Equality is a choice, Inclusion is an action and Belonging is an outcome.”

Arthur Chan, Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Strategist

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities was first proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations under resolution 47/3 which can be accessed here [link] On the 3rd of December, the world observes the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by recognising the visible and invisible disabilities to promote inclusion.

The purpose of the day

The aim of this day is  to promote understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.  It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The World Health Organisation has noted that 16% of the world’s population live with a disability and this is a significant number. 

This year’s theme ‘United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with and by persons with disabilities, builds up on the 2022 theme which focused on the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.

This year’s theme is looking at Sustainable Development Goals holistically to ensure that they are achieved for all persons.

The Message from the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities 2020-2023 Gerard Quinn 2020-2023 is:

“The SDGs constitute an unprecedented global agreement to build a future that is sustainable and inclusive for everyone. Aspiring to “leave no one behind” requires to strengthen human rights, equality and sustainability; it is an inclusive agenda that provides a unique opportunity to develop policies that benefit persons with disabilities, while advancing the realisation of their rights.”

Persons with Disabilities and Development Goals

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) came into force in 2008 and is the first legally binding international UN instrument on disability, which sets out the minimum standards governments are obliged to meet in order to ensure that persons with disabilities effectively benefit from their civil, political, economic and social rights.

The 2023 theme focuses on ensuring that sustainable development goals are achieved by, together with and for Persons with Disabilities. The underlying aspect of rescuing SDGs stems from the fact that the world is far from achieving the SDGs by 2030 due to varied world events happening such as the COVID19 pandemic. The United Nations in its Disability and Development Report of 2023 noted that the world is even more off track in meeting several SDGs for persons with disabilities.

It cannot be denied Persons with Disabilities missed out on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set and signed in 2000. The 8 MDGs focused on eradication of poverty, achievement of universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women women, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, combating of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and global partnership for development.  There was no explicit mention of persons with disabilities.  The history of how PWDs missed out on MDGs is important to bring context to this year’s theme as it shows that we have been playing catch up since the exclusion of PWDs from MDGs.  We cannot allow the same to happen with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The key to ensuring that persons with disabilities benefit from the SDGs is to systematically identify the factors that currently block their inclusion in programs and policies based on the SDGs. It is also important to mainstream disability in all the development policies and programs in order to achieve the SDGs.  If we do, the furthest left behind will have a chance to catch up as we strive to rescue and achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The Policy Guidelines for Inclusive Sustainable Development Goals emphasises that the international community must commit to leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first, to address the situation of those most excluded from development and to implement policies to combat the discrimination entrenched in existing structures and systems. The policy guidelines for inclusive SDGs were developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] and are part of the resource package.  These guidelines resonate with the Zimbabwean context where the mantra is ‘Leaving no one behind and no place behind.’

While the Government of Zimbabwe adopted the National Disability Policy on the 9th of June 2021, there is still more to be done to ensure that PWDs participate in achieving and benefiting fully from the SDGs in Zimbabwe.

A call to put in place human rights-based disability legislation

The Disabled Persons Act was promulgated in 1992 and now falls short of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Today, as we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Veritas urges the Government of Zimbabwe to expedite the enactment of human rights-based disability legislation in line with the CRPD without delay. In addition, there is need to develop tools to assess implementation and enforcement of the legislation to achieve equality, inclusion and belonging for Persons with Disabilities.

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