This week all eyes are on Rio for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20 and on Wednesday 20 June the conference will officially commence. We are all aware of the impacts of climate change ranging from increasing food and water scarcity to extreme climate shocks such as floods. These negative impacts of climate change hit the poor hardest and with nearly one billion of the world's poor living on less than $1 a day, these extreme events have a devastating and long lasting impact.
Developing countries shoulder an uneven and unfair weight of the climate change burden and often those living in extreme poverty do not have the means to respond to extreme climate shocks such as food scarcity or environmental disasters.
At least 80% of the world’s disabled population live in developing countries. Disabled people in poor countries face even greater vulnerability as they must tackle marginalisation on account of their disability as well as the trauma of climate related shocks. Any discourse on sustainable development must be inclusive of disabled people and it is vital that any assessment of people’s ability to adapt to climate change takes into account their capacity to respond to changing development pressures.
The themes of Rio+20 are green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development. Disability is key to a number of these debates. Sightsavers will be present at Rio+20 this week to promote the inclusion of disability in the Rio+20 outcome document and in future efforts to ensure sustainable development is inclusive of disabled people.
Within the themes of poverty eradication and the green economy is it essential that a disability perspective is incorporated into some of the key discussions on: Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture; Water; Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Building; Green jobs and social inclusion. It is important that Sightsavers not only advocates for a disability perspective on these issues but that we also support the voices and needs of disabled people to be heard and incorporated into the process. Only this approach will produce a framework that supports the needs of disabled people now and ensures that sustainable development is truly inclusive.
In practical terms this means that any activity from national to community level to support sustainable development must include disabled people. For example, in countries such as Bangladesh where flooding last year affected nearly one million people, Sightsavers is working with local partners and disabled people to ensure that disaster preparedness and climate resilience activities are inclusive of disabled people. Simple adjustments such as making emergency shelters accessible to wheelchair users through the addition of ramps can ensure that the whole community including disabled members are protected against disasters such as flooding.
Climate change and its dire consequences are standing firmly in the way of poverty eradication. We need an inclusive sustainable development framework that embodies the principles of empowerment, equality and participation. It is only within this context that sustainable development stands a chance of delivering real and sustainable change for the poorest and most marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities.