DPI/NGO Briefing: "Development for All: Integrating Disability into the Millennium Development Goals"

The NGO briefing by the UN Department of Public Information on June 11 highlighted Disability, a pressing issue that has not been fully and conclusively addressed within the Millennium Development Goals. Three distinguished panelists - Akiko Ito, Maria Martinho, and Diana Indjov (via Skype from Bulgaria) - brought unique perspectives to the discussion on mainstreaming disability.

Dr. Martinho of the United Nations Statistics Division launched the presentation by outlining the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) to give the audience a broad overview of the eight goals to be achieved by 2015. She described how the United Nations tracks progress on the MDGs by a set of benchmarks and standards instituted to be applied across the board in a majority of countries. This set the stage for a description of the kinds of challenges faced by statisticians and data collectors - challenges that would be further compounded if a parameter like disability were to be added.

Dr. Diana Indjov, Chairperson of the National Council for Integration of People with Disabilities at the Bulgarian Cabinet, followed, touching frankly on the "lip service" paid to disability in some European countries and how the issue was sometimes used more as an adornment to existing policy platforms than as a viable policy plank. Dr. Indjov also stressed the connection between poverty and disability, and how resolving one issue would help resolve the other. She suggested ways to deal with poverty, focusing on the need to set up vocational training centers.

Both of these speakers applauded existing initiatives, such as the current one in Washington - reiterating the need for increased awareness and advocacy to further the fundamental U.N ideal of equality.

Ms. Akiko Ito, Chief of the Secretariat for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN DESA) rounded off the briefing and helped to shed more light and detail on the points brought up earlier. She also highlighted the notion of family as an important element in the integration of disabled persons into society. All the panelists agreed that there exists a distinct need to engage a wider global audience to truly develop and mainstream this issue.

Ultimately, the briefing provided an informative and interesting outlook on the issue of disability and how it relates to the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

For more on the Disability Convention and initiative, visit UN Enable

Reported by Harsh Govil, Intern (Groton School '10)