Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)

Disability & Gender

During the 2016 International Symposium: Disability in the SDGs: Forming Alliances and Building Evidence for the 2030 Agenda, held in London, UK in February 2016, hosted by the International Centre for Evidence in Disability (ICED), London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, it was acknowledged that that with the new Sustainable Development framework proposed to guide development until 2030, the international community is currently in an important transition period.

There was a consensus during the conference that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework features disability far more than its MDG predecessors, which were silent on disability concerns. Seven of the 169 targets specifically mention disability and ongoing discussions on the required global level indicators offer some hope that data disaggregation by disability will be included as a principle, alongside several specific indicators.

“This is an opportune time to continue to build momentum and awareness around issues of disability and development in the 2030 agenda, including the promotion of best practices and evidence which can be shared with the development community,” read the conference announcement.

Without doubt the MDGs helped direct aid flows towards a list of priorities, but the absence of disability the MDGs meant people with disabilities did not benefit from development. In short, persons with disabilities were left behind.

But the inclusion of disability in the SDGs – one of the most comprehensive international development frameworks ever written – is a cause for real hope that persons with disabilities will this time tangibly feel the impact of development progress. For example, the Sightsavers International, in its article “Disability and the SDGs: from words to action” picked out three specific mentions of disability which the organization highlighted as reflected in this excerpt:

Goal 4:

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
“Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.”

Goal 10:

Reduce inequality within and among countries
“By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.”

Goal 17:

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
“By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries… to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.”

These targets which specifically mention disability will help ensure that in efforts to provide education, equality and data monitoring, persons with disabilities will be included. This means real commitment to progress, to measuring that progress and achieving advances which were hitherto impossible.

The Question of Implementation

The article further acknowledges that these commitments, which hold such potential and hope for the world’s billion people with disabilities, are just a piece of paper. Without implementation, their promises will go undelivered, and persons with disabilities will continue to be left behind.

It recommends: “That’s why advocacy and partnership are vital if we are to see real impact by 2030. Funders, non-profits, and other groups need to maintain pressure on governments to include people with disabilities in their development plans, even when inclusion is challenging or costly,

“People with disabilities will be vital actors in this process. The inclusion of disability in the SDGs will be a powerful tool for people with disabilities to use as they raise their concerns with their own governments, and work in partnership together to deliver progress.”

There are currently 11 explicit references to persons with disabilities in Agenda 2030, and data disaggregation by disability is a core principle.  CBM has produced an infographic that links the SDGs with the human rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, drawing people’s attention to the synergies between the two international frameworks. The links made within the infographic are the most conservative interpretation of the two texts. It shows how implicitly interwoven the rights of persons with disabilities are within almost all of the key Goals, for example, where there are references ‘to all’ or ‘accessible’ – these must include persons with disabilities to be realised in practice. It is also crucial however, that disability inclusion is part of each and every SDG even when disability is not explicitly mentioned, as in the case of Goal 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Download an accessible word version of the infographic here.

The International Disability Alliance and the International Disability and Development Consortium have developed a guidance and toolkit on the 2030 Agenda with respect to the inclusion of persons with disabilities. While the guidance note follows the structure of the 2030 Agenda in its entirety and highlights the references to persons with disabilities, the toolkit is more of a practical document, which provides ideas on how and why persons with disabilities should engage with the Sustainable Development Goals at the national level.

The guidance and the toolkit are available here


Relevant Resources:

 Disability Indicators For The SDG

 Disability in the SDGs Indicators 

 Infographic: Disability and Inclusive Sustainable and Development Goals


For More Resources