- January 6, 2017

Originally posted by the UN World Data Forum blog:

By Colin Allen, Chair of the International Disability Alliance, and Priscille Geiser, Chair of the International Disability and Development Consortium

“In committing to the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States recognized that the dignity of the individual is fundamental and that the Agenda’s Goals and targets should be met for all nations and people and for all segments of society. Furthermore, they endeavoured to reach first those who are furthest behind.”

– Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016

Persons with disabilities have long known what it’s like to be hidden from the world. Historically, persons with disabilities faced barriers, marginalization and were not counted. Even those who have been active in their communities still have the barriers they face and their experience of disability ignored, misunderstood or dismissed. Disability has too long been regarded as a medical problem.

If our overarching goal for 2030 is for global sustainable development to leave no one behind, then we must count everyone and we must also count who they are. As governments, UN agencies and civil society gather in Cape Town for the UN World Data Forum to improve how we measure development progress and sustainability, it is not enough to ensure accurate tallies of populations.

We agreed long ago in development that age and gender matter, and we recognize this by disaggregating population data in these ways, and observing discrepancies to orient or reorient development efforts.

The UN World Data Forum is an opportunity to consolidate this common commitment to the SDGs. All national statistics offices, the United Nations, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities must collaborate so that we can collect powerful datasets that include all persons with disabilities, and that we can disaggregate this population data by disability status. As Chairs of the International Disability Alliance and the International Disability and Development Consortium, we are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure this happens.

Persons with disabilities are members of all societies and communities across the world. The SDGs themselves, and their specific indicators, clearly state that disaggregated data are needed and should be collected to monitor advancement in the implementation of the goals. Only then can we ensure meaningful and useful international comparability over time.

Tools already exist, including the Washington Group short set of questions and, for disaggregation by disability among children, the UNICEF/Washington Group module on Child Functioning. The World Health Organization has also developed the Model Disability Survey and other UN agencies are in the process of developing new modules. We have found these tools can be easily and cost effectively streamlined into all national data collection efforts. Further data and information can also be harnessed to guide policy makers on achieving the SDGs and measure the tangible impacts of policies and programmes across populations.

The 2030 Agenda calls on all of us to work in partnership to achieve its Goals. Since the 2030 Agenda’s adoption, this is the first major test of our commitment—across governments, UN Agencies, civil society and beyond—to build real working partnerships towards this shared vision. The world has agreed that sustainable development means inclusive development. Persons with disabilities are here in South Africa to make sure we’re counted.

Colin Allen and Prisicille Geiser

Colin Allen,
Chair of the International Disability Alliance 
Priscille Geiser,
Chair of the International Disability and Development Consortium

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