IDPD2023: Call to Action for Disability Inclusive Food Security
Since 1992, December 3rd has been celebrated globally as the day to promote the position of persons with disabilities. The ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ (IDPD) focuses public and political attention on their vital contributions to societies and their role in decision-making processes. This UN day also calls for attention to several challenges, for example, supporting them to ensure their income and food security.
Persons with disabilities are vulnerable and face stigma and discrimination daily. Their access to basic resources such as land, water, and food is critical for ensuring their food security. This situation worsens because of climate change. We hope and expect that this urgent challenge will be addressed when governments from all over the world meet at the 28th Conference of the Parties to the International Climate Convention. Droughts, floods, and unpredictable rainfall have led to land abandonment, internal displacement and a decline in agricultural production, resulting in food shortages. The climate crisis affects everyone, but vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, in particular, suffer from decreased food supply.
Interventions such as the We are Able! programme is making a difference in the lives of persons with disabilities in Central and East Africa. This five-year partnership, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aims to empower persons with disabilities, make them aware of their rights, and strengthen their self-representation in Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs). It also supports its national unions and federations to engage with local and national policymakers to promote and implement disability-inclusive food security policies. These policies relate to access to nutritious and affordable food, fertile land, and sufficient water supply.
Financial and business services must be inclusive, enabling people with disabilities to produce and sell, while providing assistive devices like wheelchairs and crutches to overcome physical barriers. In particular, women and girls need protection from (sexual) violence, and their voice needs to be strengthened. When they earn a decent income, they can purchase food when it is available and affordable. The We are Able! programme advocates for these improvements in Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, and DR Congo.
In these countries, OPDs are now advocating at the local and national levels for their improved food security. This has resulted in policies being changed and subsequently being implemented. For example, in Ethiopia, we saw that in municipalities, following advocacy with local authorities, persons with disabilities were provided with sheds or market stalls. They were trained by the We are Able! team to start income-generating activities that ensure a decent income and food on the table for themselves and their families. In South Sudan, We are Able! promoted consultations between OPDs and local governments, discussing challenges and obstacles for persons with disabilities. This resulted in local authorities employing persons with disabilities as civil servants, tasked to overcome these challenges.
However, more needs to be done. This week, our colleagues in six countries are carrying forward the advocacy for disability-inclusive food security. Last week in Uganda, the WaA! Team—including the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda—travelled to Kampala to engage in a round-table discussion with national policy stakeholders from different ministries.
They addressed the need to speed up adequate land registration practices, promoting the right to land for persons with disabilities in Northern Uganda. The right of land inheritance of persons with disabilities in Burundi is being advocated to prevent them from being overlooked or ignored. The team there is working with the media to raise community awareness about this vital issue.
Internationally, we are calling for enhanced action in line with the IDPD2023 theme of “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGS for, with, and by persons with disabilities.” The High-Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) concluded this summer that the global community is falling short of achieving the SDGs. Specifically, SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 5 (gender equality), and SDG 10 (equality between and within societies) will not be met.
It is important that governments and donors, including the Netherlands, prioritise the food security of persons with disabilities. They should work with local and national authorities, OPDs and CSOs, to translate the commitments to the SDGs into concrete policy and practice. Involving persons with disabilities in the design and implementation will safeguard their interests being taken on board. This is in line with their call for meaningful civic space: “Nothing about us without us.” But it would also do justice to the Agenda 2030 call to “Leave no One Behind.”
Progress can be accelerated if sufficient resources are made available. First, this includes ODA (Official Development Assistance) budgets for inclusive food security programmes, provided by African governments and the international donor community, including INGOs. This would allow more persons with disabilities to benefit from available and affordable food supplies, or access to means of agricultural production so that they can grow and sell food.
As IDPD23 coincides with the COP28 conference in Dubai, we also call for both climate adaptation and loss and damage funding to be topped up to meet the growing demand, particularly in African countries. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has indicated that the funding gap for climate adaptation measures is 50% more than was previously thought. Therefore, we call for an increase in the budget for climate adaptation and making sure that persons with disabilities benefit from it as well as other vulnerable groups. In that way, we can work towards climate-resilient communities that are inclusive for all!
When more funding becomes available, it will be increasingly critical for persons with disabilities to have a seat at the decision-making table for the inclusive design and implementation of food security programmes that are adapted to the rapidly changing climate. It is crucial to ensure that farming and agriculture programmes address the legal, social, environmental, and economic challenges faced by farmers daily. By doing so, we can make farming and agriculture both climate-resilient and inclusive for people with disabilities. Ultimately, this will contribute to achieving food security and social justice for all.
By Jasper Oei (SYF) and Shitaye ASastawes (ADF)- On behalf of the We are Able! Consortium