The Italian Cooperation for the inclusion of people with disabilities
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), around one billion people around the world are affected by disability, that is 15 percent of the entire global population, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006 in order to promote the recognition of equal rights for everyone. Italy was among the first of the Convention’s 50 signatories.
In order to respond to the articles laid out in the Convention, in 2013 the DGCS (Directorate-General for Development Coordination) adopted the “Italian Development Cooperation Disability Action Plan”. The objective of this document is to introduce the disability issue within the policies and activities of the Italian Cooperation in the respect of sector-specific guidelines and the three-year and programming guidelines.
The drafting of the document saw strong participation from civil society, institutions and academia. In order to carry out the activities in the Action Plan, working groups were set up on specific themes and achieved noteworthy results in collaboration with representatives from civil society (RIDS Rete Italiana Disabilià e Sviluppo – The Italian Network on Disability and Development). The approval of the “Vademecum on Disability and Cooperation in the Humanitarian Sector” in November 2015 was particularly significant.
The Vademecum is included in the Action Plan under “Humanitarian Aid and Emergency Situations” and is a supporting guide for all Italian humanitarian workers, so that their actions in emergency situations respect the rights of people with disabilities and pay special attention to their needs and inclusion. Inclusion plays a particularly important role in safeguarding and assisting people with disabilities. The humanitarian strategy for people with disabilities must be based on a participatory approach that includes them, their families and the organisations representing them from the very first formulation phases of programmes and interventions.
The inclusion of people with disabilities is also a key concept in education, as can be seen in the document adopted by the DGCS on “Inclusive Education and Development Cooperation”. This document was drafted by RIDS, Save the Children and the “La Sapienza University” of Rome.
The United Nations has formally recognised the importance of inclusive education in effectively and completely guaranteeing the right to education for all, a cornerstone of development. It was also defined as a fundamental element of the aim on education within the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The document contains sector-specific theoretical and methodical statements and an operational tool for the formulation and evaluation of the initiatives that view inclusive education as a core value of inclusion in society.
The “Guidelines on the Standards of Accessibility for Constructions Financed by the DGCS” adopted in July 2015 are especially noteworthy. This document was drawn up with the goal of indiscriminately guaranteeing access to structures built during the various initiatives, as indicated in Art. 9 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The documents were presented and deliberated during the international conference “Including Disability in Development Cooperation: Experiences of Collaboration Between Governments, NGOs and DPOs”, hosted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on November 18. The event, jointly promoted by the DGCS and RIDS, was attended by Italian and international representatives of institutions and civil society who work to include disability in development programmes and policies. Giampaolo Cantini, the Director-General of the Italian Development Cooperation, spoke during the conference and reiterated the Cooperation’s commitment in the disability sector.
“The Plan was not a point of arrival for us, but it is just the beginning of our efforts: since then, we have launched a series of initiatives in the disability sector, strengthening the “mainstreaming” of other projects already underway and launching information and awareness projects”, said Cantini. Among these are various seminars in Palestine, Tunisia, Mozambique, Serbia and Italy, and the travelling photographic exhibit to promote the good practices of the DGCS and RIDS in the sector.