High Level Political Forum 2020: Decade of Action - Disability Rights and SDGs in the Context of Covid-19

7-16 July 2020, New York,

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development was held between 7-16 July 2020, and took place online because of COVID-19. Diana, Gordon and Marion at EDF followed the event closely, focusing in particular on the Voluntary National Reviews of Bangladesh and Kenya due to our involvement in the Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) project. We also listened to the different side-events on disability and organised our own side-event, in collaboration with i2i. The official theme of the HLPF was "Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development".

This year, the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) were more comprehensive and also more elaborated in detail compared to 2015 - highlighted Michael Obersteiner, the Executive Director of the Environmental Change Institute from the University of Oxford. 11 VNR were from Europe, 16 from Africa, 11 from Asia Pacific and 9 from the Latin American and Caribbean region. One VNR Lab included a case study of persons with disabilities and indigenous people.

The crisis requires us an emergency focus on solutions and solidarity. Everyone’s role who works for human rights and for a more inclusive society is to make sure that the rights of persons with disabilities are included in every stage whenever it comes to assessments or policymaking. That is the only way to ensure that no one is left behind while we are working on sustainable development goals and combatting COVID-19.

EDF is currently working closely with DPOs in Bangladesh and Kenya, on the i2i project. For this reason, and as part of the Global Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities, we provided some support in their participation in production of national Civil Society Organisation (CSO) statements. Unfortunately, for both countries there was little time for the reading of the CSO statements after the country reviews. However, both have been submitted as text and we hope the disability specific points (covering, for example, participation, accessibility, data disaggregation and budgeting) will be fully addressed by the respective governments.

COVID-19 was of course the main topic of discussions, with government representatives presenting their response and exit strategy during the different sessions. Similarly, most side-events, which were also online, focused on COVID-19. For instance, the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities held its official side-event on the 8th July. The event revolved around the following question: Will the SDGs be Still Relevant After the Pandemic for Persons with Disabilities? drawing from the article from the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub written by co-facilitators of the Stakeholder Group. The event had a stellar group of panelists including representatives from underrepresented groups of persons with disabilities from around the world, global leaders of representative organizations of persons with disabilities, government representatives from Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Jamaica and the United Kingdom, and civil society partners.

Our side- event, Inclusion Counts- Disability Data in Crisis Response was co-organised by Leonard Cheshire and EDF, in the context of the i2i project. The event was moderated by Tiziana Oliva, the Executive Director, Global Influencing and Impact at Leonard Cheshire. We had the pleasure to listen to the representatives of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Bangladesh, the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics, ILO, B-SCAN from Bangladesh, and the Women Challenged to Challenge on 16th July. The poorest and the most vulnerable people are most affected by this pandemic, persons with disabilities – a billion people mostly living in developing countries – are among the hardest hit. This HLPF online side-event provided data to understand the economic impact of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities. The session discussed how data is being used to inform responses and recovery measures on employment and social protection. Speakers highlighted the importance of a cross-sector response to reduce the disproportionate impact on marginalised groups. Stefan Tromel, ILO said that only 10% of COVID-19 assessments include disability data. “The world promised to leave no one behind”- our Director, Catherine Naughton summarised the event with this sentence.

In case you are interested in more details, the following researches are available for further reading:

  • The results of i2i survey about how the lives of people with disabilities were impacted by COVID-19 in Bangladesh and Kenya.
  • The GLAD Network has an open Call to Action to include persons with disabilities to response and recovery phrases of COVID-19.
  • A short qualitative research study by the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities was also carried out between May and June 2020 and launched during the HLPF. The report is based on testimonies from 106 persons with disabilities around the world sharing their experience facing the global pandemic.
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