By Jane Edge, CBM Australia CEO.
This week Australian international development and humanitarian agencies will come together at the 2019 ACFID National Conference. This opportunity to reflect, share and learn from one another is critical as we strive to serve those who need our support in ways that are more impactful, more empowering and more accountable.
As one of the Vice Presidents of the ACFID board, I enjoy seeing the culmination of hard work, planning and passion, which leads to engaging and stimulating conversations, and the ability to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
While each organisation may focus on different facets of development practice, we are all working to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the globally agreed plan for peace and prosperity for all on a much healthier planet.
This vision of a better future can only be achieved with the full participation of everyone, including people with disabilities. As we head into a new decade, it is an important time to reflect on the progress made and the challenges and opportunities that still lie ahead.
In late 2018, the United Nations released its Flagship Report on Disability. It showed that despite the strong commitment for inclusive and sustainable development, people with disabilities continue to face significant challenges to their full participation in society. These include negative attitudes, stigma, discrimination and lack of accessibility in physical and virtual environments.
The continued exclusion and marginalisation of people with disabilities is one of the significant challenges we face as a sector.
As development agencies, it is our shared duty to tackle prejudice and misinformation and to find new approaches and tools to work for and with people with disabilities.
This is at the heart of what we do at CBM Australia.
This year, among the wide variety of speakers, presenters, topics and workshops, I am proud to see disability inclusion featured several times in the program. There will be panels sharing lessons learned and promising practices to inform and generate reflection and discussion for people’s development work.
The agenda includes a discussion highlighting how leadership by, and engagement, with people with disabilities and their representative organisations at all levels has enabled sustainable changes in people’s lives. Also a workshop presenting the ‘Research for All: Making Development Research Inclusive of People with Disabilities’ resource, which provides user-friendly guidance and practical tools on disability inclusion for researchers. Across these activities, speakers with disabilities from the Philippines, Indonesia, Fiji and Australia’s first people will share with the broader sector the diversity of their experiences and approaches towards development, and ensure people with disabilities are front and centre during the conference.
This year the ACFID membership is being asked to pass a resolution highlighting the importance of disability-inclusive development in the Australian humanitarian and development programs.
If passed, this resolution will be a reaffirmation of the commitment the Australian sector has and continues to build for the inclusion of people with disabilities; ensuring they are not left behind in our efforts to achieve Agenda 2030.
Each time I attend the conference I am challenged by thought provoking ideas, differing perspectives and a better understanding of the sector. I leave with new insights and optimism for what the Australian aid and development sector is striving to achieve in developing countries and among marginalised communities around the world.
I love being a part of such important work striving for peace, social justice and inclusion for all.