Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views, Issue no. 7 March-April 2001

table of contents - home page - text-only home page

Nordic Ministers for Development Cooperation Issue Communique on Inclusion of Disability Aspects "Towards inclusion of disability aspectsin international development co-operation"

The Ministers for Development Cooperation from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden met with NGO representatives from the Nordic countries, recipient countries and international organizations in Copenhagen on 13-14 November 2000 at the Nordic Conference on Disability and Development Cooperation to discuss ways and means of including the disability aspect in international development cooperation.

The Ministers stress that human rights are universal. But some groups are more exposed to discrimination than others. One such group is persons with disabilities. In order for all disabled persons to enjoy their rights, special measure are needed to create accessibility and participation in society.

In all societies there is a risk of persons with disabilities being excluded, made invisible and objectified. Such risk can be counteracted through deliberate strategies for securing participation in the democratic processes, accessibility to the community and special measures to improve the living conditions of disabled persons. The Ministers stress that this work should continue to be guided by the UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

Taking into consideration the United Nations Millennium Declaration, the Ministers considered it urgently necessary to take steps within the framework of the various development cooperation policy objectives in order to strengthen the possibilities of all disabled persons to exercise their human rights.

The Ministers find the inclusion of disability in development cooperation to be in accordance with the overarching objective of combating poverty, thus recognizing that the elimination of world poverty is unlikely to be achieved unless the rights and needs of people with disabilities are taken into consideration. Persons with disabilities most often belong to the poorest of the poor - the primary target group of development cooperation.

The Ministers accentuate that limited access to education as well as prejudice and ignorance on the part of employers, coupled with practical impediments, such as lack of adequate assisting devices and accessible premises, make the path to employment and self-sufficiency longer and harder for persons with disabilities. Only when there are genuine opportunities for participation in working life will prejudice disappear and participation increase.

Recognising that women and girl children with disabilities are subjected to triple discrimination - due to disability, poverty and gender - The Ministers emphasize that special attention should be granted to the promotion of disabled women's and girl children's opportunities to enjoy their human rights.

The Ministers agree that combating poverty, as well as other core aspects of development policy, have a profound bearing on the prevention of disability. This applies to the work to extend vaccination programmes and health and maternity care, to improve hygiene and sanitation and to make working and living conditions less dangerous. It further applies to the work for preventing wars and conflicts, mine clearance and work against the use of child soldiers. Nonetheless, once a disability has materialized, rehabilitation and accessibility measures will give many disabled persons the possibility of earning independent livelihoods and enjoying their human rights.

The Ministers stress the importance of societies being inclusive and accessible for children with disabilities to be able to enjoy their human rights. The Ministers find that development cooperation measures to this effect should be anchored in the rights of all children - that is to play, to have their families, to health and education and to participate actively in the community - as well as in disabled children's specific need for special support. The Ministers agreed that enhanced efforts in this field call for further experience in interchange and information sharing, as well as an enhanced focus in development activities on the possibility of the disabled child to enjoy his or her human rights.

The Ministers refer to the various instruments that have been adopted within the United Nations framework concerning the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Some are legally binding on states, while others are merely morally binding. The following instruments form a common basis for the promotion of equal rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities:
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979
  • World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled People, 1982
  • Convention of the Rights of the Child, 1989
  • UN Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, 1993
  • Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action, 1993
  • Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, 1994
  • The Commission on Human Rights, resolution 2000/51, 2000
Nordic plans for further collaboration
The Ministers find that the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, the United Nations commissions and the General Assembly provide useful forums for standard setting. Within this setting and in other multilateral forums the Ministers agree that the common values of the Nordic countries provided a sound basis for efforts to promote the disability dimension in development cooperation. The Ministers find the common statement on human rights of persons with disabilities presented at the Commission on Human Rights earlier this year as an example hereof.

The Ministers confirm that the Nordic countries will continue to coordinate their efforts in the follow-up processes of the world summits regarding the inclusion of the disability dimension into relevant development activities. Following Copenhagen +5 and Beijing +5 the next summits on the agenda will be the Istanbul +5 Summit in June 2001 and the Child Summit follow-up in September 2001.

Acting within the United Nations family of organizations, the international financial institutions and regional organizations the Ministers stated that the Nordic countries will work to ensure that the disability dimensions is incorporated into the policy and practice of the organizations.

The Ministers, at the Nordic conference on Disability and Development cooperation aimed at discussing ways and means of a clear inclusion of disability in Nordic development cooperation, declare their resolve to:
  1. Collate experience derived from disability related field activities and define ways and means of ensuring that persons with disabilities are included in the combat against poverty in the Third World.
  2. Enhance efforts for the inclusion of the disability aspect in relevant development co-operation policies.
  3. Continue the process of compiling best practices, identifying and persons with disabilities,
  4. Take new and reinforced actions to ensure that the United Nations and other multilateral agencies give increased attention to persons with disabilities in all relevant aspects of development co-operation, including improved resource allocation to the disability dimension. These efforts should be pursued in the UN General Assembly and in all other relevant bodies,
  5. Sustain the ongoing dialogue between NGOs, public authorities and government departments for the interchange of knowledge and experience relating to the work for the inclusion of disabled persons in the context of international development co-operation,
  6. Evaluate, within five years, what has been achieved and law down future plans for continuing Nordic cooperation concerning these questions.

table of contents - home page - text-only home page