31 Jan 2017

The first UN World Data Forum took place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 15-18 January 2017, and was hosted by the Government of South Africa and Statistics South Africa. The Forum brought together key experts from governments, businesses, civil society and the scientific and academic communities to discuss opportunities and challenges and showcase the latest innovations to improve data and statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Why is data important for persons with disabilities?

Data collection can provide the number of persons with disabilities in a location, the barriers, and what policies and programmes are needed to eradicate those barriers. Disaggregation of data by disability is a key step in including persons with disabilities who encounter higher rates of poverty and exclusion from society.

To disaggregate by disability status in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators, it merely requires the addition of a small set of questions – such as the Washington Group on Disability Statistics Short Set of Questions – on already existing data instruments. When disability questions are included in the data systems that produce the SDG indicators, disaggregation of data is not only feasible but can easily be accomplished.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development specifies that data should be disaggregated by “income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national context” (17.18). Overlooking these groups undermines the Agenda’s core concept of leave no one behind.

In contrast to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), civil society and other stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, have more space to drive and be involved meaningfully in the SDG indicator framework, particularly at the national level. The main reason for this is because the SDGs are country led, use a multi-stakeholder approach, and employ the principle of leave no one behind.

Disability inclusion at the Forum

Persons with disabilities had a strong presence at the Forum. This included a disability-focused side event co-organised by the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), having various panelists throughout the Forum highlighting disability (e.g. World Bank, DFID, and WHO), and with many DPO representatives and allies as participants and panelists. Moreover, in the opening session, Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), included the need for data on persons with disabilities in his speech. Similarly, at the end of the Forum, disability was again highlighted as a group that needs to be addressed in data. Particularly relevant, is that in the final session on the IAEG-SDGs, two members included disability in their final conclusions on the Forum (Jamaica and Fiji).

Also, there is a disability reference in the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data (GAP) that was launched at the World Data Forum. IDA and IDDC were active in advocating for this reference, so we welcome the inclusion of disability language. Specifically, the Plan states “Support the strengthening and further development of methodology and standards for disability statistics” (Objective 3.5). “Accessible” is also used twice in the document. While this is a good first step, the language can be improved from “strengthening” and “development,” to systematic mainstreaming of disability statistics. But as was stated in the closing session, the GA

Disability data event by IDA and IDDC

One of the six main themes of the UN World Data Forum was leaving no one behind, and for this the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) co-organised a session on “collecting disability data toward implementing the sustainable development goals and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

The key messages and recommendations that jointly emerged from the compelling session are as follows:

  • The inclusion of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics short set of questions in data collections that produce the SDG indicators is a tested and efficient method for disaggregating indicators by disability status for monitoring the SDGs and the overarching objective of leaving no one behind. In addition, a child functioning module has been developed by the Washington Group and UNICEF for monitoring ‎the status of children with disabilities.
  • It is very feasible to disaggregate data by disability status at the primary and secondary levels in a range of health programs and within ministry of health and NGO facilities and outreach. The key is what is next?
  • Collection of disability-related data is greatly improved by involving organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) and persons with disabilities in data collection analysis and related programs and policies. National Statistical Offices (NSOs) and other organisations responsible for data collection and analysis would benefit by having persons with disabilities on their staff as well. 
  • The Washington Group short set of questions endorsed by UN agencies provides a way to leave no person with disabilities behind by disaggregating the SDGs. It is critical to make use of this tool for planning and monitoring, and to go beyond disaggregation to understand how discrimination occurs and how to challenge these, while at the same time engaging with DPOs to hold their governments accountable.

This was the first of many UN world data gatherings, so let’s keep working together to ensure that no one is left behind and to build a more inclusive society in which everyone is counted in.

 

Note: This article has been adapted with permission from a blog by Elizabeth Lockwood, CBM: Data and persons with disabilities

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