Sustainable Development Goals And People With Disabilities

What are Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs are an international set of goals that the UN member states are expected to use as a foundation to frame their political policies and agendas for the next 15 years. The SDGs expand on the Millennium Development Goals by including human rights, economic development etc. which were overlooked. The SDGs aim to help transform the world by the year 2030 through a set of 17 global goals. Each goal has a list of targets within them. The SDGs took effect in January 2016 with the main aim of eliminating poverty. Implementation is in the hands of each State’s Government.

The Sustainable Development Goals are:

(i) End poverty in all its forms everywhere
(ii) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
(iii) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
(iv) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
(v) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
(vi) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
(vii) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
(viii) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
(ix) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
(x) Reduce inequality within and among countries
(xi) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
(xii) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
(xiii) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact
(xiv) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
(xv) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
(xvi) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
(xvii) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Where do persons with disabilities figure in the Sustainable Development Goals?

Since the Millennium Development Goals did not figure persons with disabilities at all, international disability groups lobbied for their inclusion in the SDGs as far as possible. Seven goals specifically mention persons with disabilities within their targets (education, accessible schools, employment, accessible public spaces and transport, empowerment and inclusion, data disaggregation). There are more than 10 universal targets which are meant to impact “all persons”. There are also eight targets which seek to impact “vulnerable persons”, which include persons with disabilities.

Great! So things will get sorted by 2030?

No, there is quite a lot to do at the national level. Each State has the freedom to come up with its own indicators as to the achievement of these goals, and since the goals are so widely framed, persons with disabilities can get excluded.

Take, for example, the Goal on Education – these are the targets:

(i) By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
(ii) By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
(iii) By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
(iv) By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
(v) By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
(vi) By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
(vii) By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development
(viii) Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender-sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all
(ix) By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries
(x) By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States

How will India measure the achievement of these goals?

Questions regarding how these goals will be achieved, and how do you monitor whether they’ve been achieved or not, happens through the framing of indicators.

In India, NITI AYOG is framing these indicators. It is important to contribute to this process by establishing the need to include disability-inclusive parameters by using definitions under the Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities. For example:

• If a target uses the term ‘equal’, it must include non-discrimination of persons with disabilities
• If a target uses ‘for all’, it must include people with different types of impairments and within that, different intersections – women, children, etc.
• All indicators made by the SDGs must be monitored through disability disaggregated data

Why should you take part in this process?

Through the Millennium Development Goals, we have seen many indicators like maternal and infant mortality, primary school education enrollment rates etc., being prioritized by the government to reach goals with respect to these issues.

This means framing of policies around these issues, allocating money and staff, and being proactive in achieving goals. It is a window of opportunity to engage with the government and ensure, like the Sustainable Development Goals promise, that no one is left behind.

Following NITI AYOG updates and pressing for inclusion of indicators in schemes and policies formulated by Departments and Ministries that concern you is the best way to include oneself in the process.