It is testament to OPDs’ success that they have become sought-after partners for international agencies in the Pacific, as seen in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This is allowing them to make valuable contributions as self-advocates, technical advisors and implementers.
However, for these roles and the work of OPDs to be sustainable they must be strategically conceived and properly resourced. As part of this, it is vital that international partners such as the AHP agencies recognise that the DRR activities in which they collaborate with OPDs are only one part of those organisations’ larger roles in lowering barriers facing people with disabilities and supporting them to thrive. Recognising this reality is important for two reasons. First, because that will allow partners to acknowledge OPDs’ own visions and strategic objectives and develop ways of supporting them in line with localisation principles. Second, because the wider goal of advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in their diversity is tied to supporting those same groups in times of disaster.
Long-term flexible partnership practices can eliminate attitudinal barriers and support the capacity of OPDs to lead advocacy and promote inclusion beyond the timeframe of specific programs. These practices must include the provision of sufficient financial and technical support for OPDs to operate in line with their own objectives and where the priorities of OPDs and partners align. Walking alongside OPDs also requires partners securing in-house capacity to capitalise on such partnerships and apply better inclusion practices when interacting with OPDs.
This study has highlighted the need for more detailed and systematic M&E on the roles and impacts of OPDs and of activities to promote disability inclusion during disaster preparedness and response. At present, not enough is known about what really makes a difference to the experiences of the wide range of people with disabilities, including how intersectionality shapes experiences and outcomes. This is preventing actors in the sector and more widely (such as service providers or governments) from learning and improving their programs over time. While the present study makes a contribution to this area, the lack of proper reporting to draw on and the limitations of scope prevented the kind of analysis that is required in this area. Numerous other studies have made similar points about the need for stronger M&E and improved accountability. Agencies need to take action.
While research in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu highlighted shared patterns, especially their stretched capacity to play multiple roles and the challenges of resourcing them, the comparison between the two can also be used to inform future practice. Exchanges on PWDSI’s lessons learnt after a few years of dedicating its DRR officer’s time to supporting AHP partners with technical advice, and PWDSI’s plans to strengthen its organisational governance systems, would likely benefit VDPA. Conversely, VDPA’s experience in mobilising networks of people with disabilities across the country for advocacy and other purposes should inspire PWDSI.