Campaigners demand UK Government includes people with disabilities in global development

sightsavers_logoYesterday (Tuesday 9 September) the signatures of over 20,000 people were handed to Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, calling on the government to deliver on the promises it has made to put people with disabilities ‘in the picture’ when it comes to global development.

Sightsavers’ CEO Dr Caroline Harper and paralympian Ben Quilter presented the giant picture frame displaying the names of all the people who have signed the online petition.

Since its launch, the Change.org petition has attracted a growing number of campaigners in support of Sightsavers’ Put Us in the Picture campaign, helping to successfully influence the UK Government to change its development policy.  The public call for action, and policy commitments made, could transform the lives of millions of people living with disabilities in developing countries.

Dr Caroline Harper said: “The UK Government has promised to publish a disability framework in November detailing how it will ensure people with disabilities have a voice in, and benefit from, its international aid and development work.

“The numbers of people signing up to the petition and level of support for the campaign shows that people really care about this issue. It also sends a strong message to the UK Government that the public is ready to hold them to account. We at Sightsavers are delighted to see that it’s a message that has been heard and look forward to working with DFID to develop and implement a far-reaching framework for inclusion.”

As global discussions are held to decide development goals that will be in place for the next fifteen years it’s vital that people with disabilities are included or we risk another generation being marginalised and forgotten.

The hand in was timed ahead of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York next week so that a strong message is sent to global leaders that they must  include people with disabilities when they are formulating the next global development framework.

Caroline added: “It’s vital that the government delivers on these promises. But as an influential donor, it’s also vital it uses this influence to put disability on the global agenda at the UNGA to secure real and lasting change for people with disabilities in developing countries.”

On being handed the petition, Lynne Featherstone said: “I congratulate Sightsavers on their hard work to draw the public’s attention to this important issue. Disability has long been a sorely neglected issue in developing countries, often affecting the poorest and most marginalised. The UK Government has led the way in calling for more specific action to support people with disabilities around the world and DFID already incorporates support into many programmes across Africa and Asia.

“However, I have seen first-hand the challenges people with disabilities in poor countries face and there is more we must do to ensure that no one is left behind. That is why DFID is committed to mainstreaming disability issues across our programmes and I’ll continue to work with charities like Sightsavers to make sure our strategic framework delivers for people with disabilities.”

Sightsavers is also calling for a commitment from all three main political parties to deliver inclusive UK development policy ahead of the General Election in May 2015. This would ensure that the progress and policy commitments made by DFID are carried forward by whatever government is in place after the election.

Of the billion people worldwide who have a disability, the vast majority – 80 per cent – live in developing countries.

People with disabilities represent some of the most excluded and difficult to reach of all groups in the community. They are less likely to have access to healthcare and education, and in turn find making a livelihood and escaping poverty that much more difficult, if not impossible.

To help bring more attention to the campaign, Sightsavers has released an animation which they are asking people to share. The video brings into focus the stark reality of life for people with disabilities in developing countries: the difference in opportunities and access to services they experience and the human cost of exclusion. It also shows how their lives can be transformed given the right interventions and inspires people to take action.

This film adds to the online hub developed for the campaign where people can put themselves in the picture’ by adding their Facebook or Twitter profile picture to a photographic mosaic.

Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities.  sightsavers.net

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