According to UN estimates,15 per cent of the world’s population is made up of persons with disability, ranging from mild to severe.

Mainstreaming disability in development is a strategy for achieving equality for persons with disabilities- Nighat Urpani

Here we are talking about almost one-fifth of the estimated global total of people living with disabilities. Another quarter of the global population are directly affected by disability, either as care-givers or family members.

One in six people in the EU (about 80 million) has a disability.

Persons with disabilities face several challenges in their societies and are often subjected to stigma and discrimination. This results in them becoming largely marginalised, disproportionately poorer, frequently unemployed and they tend to have higher rates of mortality.

Such conditions, in turn, exclude them from civil and political processes.

If people with disabilities are provided with opportunities to be empowered they can participate in the process of development, which benefits their entire community – with or without a disability. Hence, including persons with disabilities and their communities in developmental efforts is important to advance the development agenda.

Thus, it is imperative for policymakers to ensure that development efforts around the world include disability issues as well as allocation of funds for developmental programmes and projects.

Mainstreaming disability in development is a strategy for achieving equality for persons with disabilities. The idea that we need to make ourselves get used to is that the traditional dependency on the charity model in order for these development programmes and projects to be funded has been ineffective.

Article 26 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union lays emphasis on the integration of persons with disabilities.

It states: “The Union recognises and respects the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community.”

To infuse the ethos and pathos of these words in our social realities we need to think on the lines of providing accessibility to transport and buildings; enhance their participation in education and employment; support independent living; provide social protection against violence and abuse and foster equal access to health services and related facilities for people with disabilities.

Malta supports the objectives set out in the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020. The strategy outlines the areas for action to empower the people with disability.

The implementation of the strategy depends on awareness-raising, financial support, statistics and data collection and monitoring as well as mechanisms required by the UN convention.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is both a human rights treaty and a development tool, provides an opportunity to strengthen developmental policies related to the implementation of internationally-agreed development objectives, such as the Millennium Development Goals, thereby contributing to the realisation of a “society for all” in the 21st century.

The UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) speaks of “a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom”.

Massive parts of the global population are starting to feel the effects of the ongoing declining living conditions.

The UN, in 2000, launched the Millennium Declaration to commit members to fight for the eradication of extreme poverty, exclusion, discrimination and environ- ­mental pollution.

Therefore, the UN 2011 Enable Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities addresses areas of policy involving institutional, structural, cultural or procedural issues that might prevent disabled people from exercising their human rights in dignified manner.

The aim of the UN convention is to explain in practical terms what states or parties need to do in order to ensure disabled people have equal access to the human rights that non-disabled people may take for granted.

Credibility of the documents and the institutions that draft them is tied to a thread that weaves words and actions together.

To engage with people living with disabilities and accompanied challenges, this year, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs requested the input of its partners and the public for suggestions on a theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2011.

The UN system and civil society sent their responses eagerly.

The Green Europeans’ vision is for a Europe that recognises citizens’ rights in their entirety.

All member states share responsibility for guaranteeing protection to persons with disability.

After all, our participation determines our and the policymakers’ attitude.

Winston Churchill has famously said: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

The author is spokesman on social development and health of Alternattiva Demokratika.

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