Collaboration, capacity building & information exchange are the key elements to strengthen policy development on Disability Inclusion

July 2021

The European Disability Forum along with Sightsavers India organized a webinar on ‘Strengthening EU-India partnership on Disability Inclusion in the Attainment of SDGs: Engagement of organisations of people with disabilities in SDG localisation’. Indian Organisations of People with Disabilities (OPDs), European Disability Forum (EDF) members, Sightsavers, Indian and Global Disability Experts, and civil society organisations (CSOs) along with EU and State government officials participated in the virtual event.  Speakers from both India and the EU shared perceptions of people with disabilities, their role in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and localization at national and international levels.

The project behind the webinar, ‘Building Partnerships for Sustainable Development Goals – Empowering Disabled People’s Organisations’, supported by the European Union, is being implemented since March 2018. The overall objective of the project is to work towards ensuring that women and men with disabilities engage in, shape, and monitor the implementation of the SDGs in India. Along with EDF as its partner at EU level, Sightsavers is implementing this project in 5 Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP, Odisha, and Rajasthan. While working with 15 OPDs, the project intends to establish and strengthen policy dialogue and partnership between Indian OPDs and their European counterparts, the EDF.

In her keynote address, Cecilia Costa, Team leader – Cooperation Manager, EU Delegation to India and Bhutan, said, “Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights’ are at the heart of the EU’s external action: be it in the programmes and projects it funds in different parts of the world or in the policy dialogue and cooperation with partner countries, international organisations and other stakeholders. In India with whom the EU has a long-standing relation in terms of development and other cooperation, it has followed a similar approach, and this project, implemented by Sightsavers India and European Disability Forum is one such example. While much is being done, by the Government of India, Donor organisations and the civil society, much more needs to be done to achieve inclusivity.”

Sandeep Rajak – Commissioner Disability, Madhya Pradesh, said in his keynote address, “India respects the UN SDG goals, and they have been the base for our Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016. With a global to local focus, and with support of institutions such Sightsavers, we are striving to build an inclusive society for persons with disabilities by providing them with facilities in key areas such as education, livelihood, housing, etc.

In his welcome address, RN Mohanty, Chief Executive Officer-Sightsavers India, said, “Extreme inequalities are divisive and undermine societies and communities. Not just income inequalities but those inequalities that exist between different groups and result from persistent patterns of discrimination, unequal rights and historic disadvantage. The 2030 agenda is a powerful framework for addressing these issues.  Working towards this, we, at Sightsavers believe that people with disabilities have an equal right to achieve their full potential, just like everyone else. I look forward to continuing this crucial partnership with EU and EDF towards our shared vision of an Equal World.

Welcoming the audiences to the webinar, Catherine Naughton-Director of the European Disability Forum, said, “The EDF promotes the rights of persons with disability in the EU and across Europe. Since the EU is an important global development partner, donor, with an important diplomatic arm around the world, we also advocate, for the EU to be a global leader in disability inclusion development. This project with Sightsavers, is a strong example of the impact the EU can have on the rights of persons with disabilities in its work around the world. We are honoured to partner with India to work on disability inclusion. This partnership has also helped enrich our work in the EU. As we come to close of the project, I hope it is a beginning of a longer-term cooperation in relationship that we will have with all of you.”

Marion Steff, International Cooperation Manager, European Disability Forum, said, “Given the position of the EU as the only region in the world having ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, one of the largest donors of Overseas Development Assistance, and a major trade partner with India, the EU must lead by example. It must apply its leadership and champion the rights of persons with disabilities. We hope that the EU funded project between Sightsavers India and the European Disability Forum is the beginning of future promising work to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of women, men and children with disabilities in India.”

The focus of the webinar was to highlight the intersectionality of gender and disability and related project initiatives and to share best practices and experiences of localising SDGs through Disability Inclusive Score Card (DISC) process.  Sightsavers, European Disability Forum, Together 2030, and Newcastle University, developed the Disability Inclusion Score Card (DISC) with a focus on women with disabilities as participatory monitoring and accountability mechanism.

Archana Bhambal, Area Director and Namrata Mehta, Programme Manager – Sightsavers India moderated a series of short sessions on key themes such as Strategies For Empowering People With Disabilities, roadmap to implementation and advocacy for policy implementation. Arman Ali from the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPDEP), Hussaina Bi from Mewar Viklang Samiti, Nomesh Verma from Kalyan Divyang Sangh, and Meelis Joost from the Estonian Chamber of Disabled, participated in the prorgramme. The webinar was supported with international and Indian Sign interpretation and captioning for the benefit of the participants with disabilities.