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“Some governments are still leaving the majority of us behind”

Guest Blogger, June 2017
Sightsavers' Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame.
Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame

Sightsavers’ Advocacy Advisor, Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, was elected to speak on behalf of civil society at the closing of the 10th Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 15 June in New York. This is a transcript of her speech.

Welcome sisters and brothers, my name is Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame and it is my pleasure to address you all on behalf of civil society at this, the 10th session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I would like to thank you for this opportunity to represent the views of so many friends and colleagues here today and thank you for electing me on your behalf.

I would also like to thank Bulgaria who are currently President of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) Bureau for the strong inclusion of civil society at this year’s COSP. Thank you for your continued support.

Last year we commemorated the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the CRPD and celebrated the remarkable progress that has been made in advancing the rights of people with disabilities in society and development. At the beginning of the second decade I am delighted that so many governments and multilaterals are showing real leadership in this area and asking HOW to implement the CRPD, not IF they should implement it.

But my friends, some governments are still leaving the majority of us behind, and while I congratulate many, I feel that we need to constructively challenge others too – and work with them to fully implement the CRPD.

One critical area – where progress is needed by all – is the need to improve the ways and methods that disability data is collected. Put simply, public policy can never be truly responsive to the needs of people with disabilities, nor can we hold governments and others to account, if we don’t have effective data on disability and more importantly use that data effectively to make decisions.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their indicators clearly state that disaggregated data is needed so that we can monitor progress effectively. The Washington Group Short Set of Questions are an important method in this regard and I urge member states to use them.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I have an important point of reflection. Who is not present? Who is not at the table with us and who are we – unintentionally – excluding through our actions, policies and processes?

Flash surrounded by his classmates and his headmaster, John Opee.

Sightsavers works to ensure people with disabilities, like Flash, are able to participate in society.

If we are to achieve full inclusion and participation then we need transformational change. This means the systematic inclusion of people with disabilities by governments, civil society and development agencies. Our right – and our right to participate – need to be reflected more systematically in the UN development system, alongside gender and geographic balance.  

To this end, we strongly call for meaningful gender balance in the 2018 CRPD elections and we pledge to continue to work together to achieve this critical goal.

Our joint vision is the full inclusion and active participation of the one billion people worldwide with a disability. Our ambition is high. As a former President of this great country where we sit as guests, President Obama, once said: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”  

By Sightsavers’ Advocacy Advisor Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame

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