FEEDBACK – Addressing inequalities at 2019 European Development Days

Posted by: on Jun 22, 2019 | No Comments

This week, 18-19 June, the thirteenth edition of the European Development Days (EDD) ‘Addressing inequalities: building a world which leaves no one behind’ took place in Brussels.

AIR team & Margaret Arach Orech at the 2019 European Development Days.

AIR team & Margaret Arach Orech at the 2019 European Development Days.

As usual, the forum brought together thousands of representatives of the development sector, from civil society, States, EU institutions, cities etc. Exhibition, stands, high level panels, side events were organized during the 2 days, to foster the discussion on the European Union’s commitment to address inequalities enshrined within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

HI was present to carry, along with its partners, the message of disability inclusion and of the crucial role played by civil society organisations in development and humanitarian context. In the EDD village, we could be found at the , and the stand organised by HI Belgium on 3D technology and tele-rehabilitation.and the stand organised by the European External Action Service (EEAS) on humanitarian mine action

See twitter for more info on the event: @HI_Advocacy

Leave No One Behind also means ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities

For this event, we were happy to invite Margaret Arach Orech, Director of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association & ICBL-CMC ambassador, a long term partner of HI. She shared her experience of campaigning for disability rights in several events, namely:

Margaret Arach Orech during the Special event 'Making visible the invisible"

Margaret Arach Orech during the Special event ‘Making visible the invisible”

The session was the first high level event organized on disability inclusion at the EDD, and was therefore an important opportunity to discuss the main barriers to the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in decision making processes, and their access to services in developing countries. In the presence of Henriette Geiger, Director of DEVCO’s Directorate People and Peace, participants called for increased commitments from the European Union to inclusive development. Specifically, it was advised to increase funding, improve aid policies and programmes so that they are more inclusive and  support the production and use of disaggregated data, systematic consult persons with disabilities at all stages, enhance technical assistance and capacity building towards the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In her testimony, Margaret Arach explained that after she was amputated, she experienced all kinds of physical obstacles and negative reactions that undermined the quality of her daily life. She insisted on the need to improve access to health and rehabilitation services, including assistive devices, as this is key to improve the autonomy of persons  with disabilities, guarantee their full participation in the life of their communities, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • A side event on non-discrimination, organized by the EEAS and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, to discuss the newly-adopted EU Human Rights Guidelines on Non-discrimination. During this session, Margaret and other panelists highlighted the impact of multiple discrimination and inequalities in the social, economic, cultural, civil and political spheres. 
  • The official closing ceremony of the EDD. Margaret Arach Orech took the floor on behalf of CONCORD (European network of development NGOs). It was the second year in a row that a person with disabilities represented civil society as a whole!

In a discussion centered on the contributions of and challenges faced by youth in relation to sustainable and inclusive development, Margaret reminded the audience that Civil Society Organisations, including youth focused NGOs & Disabled Persons Organisations, are essential to ensure participation, advocacy, awareness raising for inclusive  and sustainable development.

Margaret Arach Orech during the official closing ceremony.

Margaret Arach Orech during the official closing ceremony.

At the beginning of this week, Ms Orech also had the opportunity to meet some EU officials of the European External Action Service, the Foreign Policy Instrument and DG DEVCO. The meeting was an opportunity to stress once more the importance of keeping the attention high on victim assistance, using concrete examples from Uganda. Margaret reminded her interlocutors that a mine free country is not victim free and that survivors, families and communities have the right to be fully included in the society. In this regard, Ms. Orech asked the EU to support affected countries in implementing existing policies to avoid that international and national legislation remains on the shelves.

Making inclusion in humanitarian settings a reality

Another key moment for HI at the EDD: the side event on inclusive humanitarian action organized by HI (DFI), the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), Finland and EDF.

The event featured the participation of Monique Pariat (Director of the DG ECHO) and Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. Few weeks before the end of his mandate, the Commissioner reaffirmed the European Union’s commitment to inclusive humanitarian action and to the implementation of the Charter (https://humanitariandisabilitycharter.org):

“We must do more to include persons with disabilities in the humanitarian in the design and delivery of humanitarian action. {…} Our target is clear: make disability inclusion an integral part of our humanitarian action in design, implementation & monitoring.”

Monique Pariat presented ECHO’s operational guidance for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in EU-Funded Humanitarian Aid Operations, and the panelists discussed key areas of improvement to ensure its implementation, namely dedicated funding, consultation and participation of DPOs, better data on disability. Vardakastanis (EDF President) highlighted the importance for humanitarian actions to include capacity building of DPOs and encouraged ECHO to join the GLAD network. Satu Santala (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland) stressed that no guidance will improve anybody’s life unless it translates into concrete actions, and called for better sharing of best practices between international organization, governments, humanitarian actors and DPO.

HI brought to the debate concrete field observation, experience and recommendations, through the powerful testimony of Mohamad Jolo, Syrian refugee with disabilities living in Germany, and a very eloquent presentation by Sien Andries (HI Inclusive Humanitarian Action Specialist).