Towards achieving inclusive sustainable development

Promoting Disability Inclusion in SDGs Implementation, monitoring, and reporting

June 5, 2024

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), represent a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Central to SDGs is the principle of "leaving no one behind," which underscores the importance of including marginalized and vulnerable populations in development efforts. 
Among these groups, persons with disabilities are often overlooked and left behind in development processes, despite the explicit mention of disability in several SDG targets. Persons with disabilities constitute 15% of the world’s population, and in Zimbabwe, the 2022 National Census showed that 9.2 % of the population are persons with disabilities. 

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Resident Representative’s Office under the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) project engaged with  government ministries and departments, Organizations of People with Disabilities (OPDs), civil society organizations, and other related stakeholders to spearhead discussions on ensuring disability inclusion in implementation, monitoring and reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals. 
This initiative brought together diverse stakeholders to develop comprehensive strategies for disability inclusion, facilitating knowledge exchange and capacity building as well as providing platforms for stakeholders to share experiences, challenges, and best practices, fostering a collaborative approach to disability-inclusive development.

A critical strategy proposed was raising awareness on disability inclusion across sectors as a critical component to promoting the rights and contributions of persons with disabilities aiming to change perceptions and attitudes, reducing stigma and discrimination, and ensuring disability inclusive service delivery.  Speaking during this consultative workshop Ms Rejoice Mabhika, Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Disability Specialist stated that“ There is need to empower communities with knowledge and understanding about persons with disabilities through disability-specific, social protection programs and also joint community outreach programs. These programs will help increase the needed awareness on the importance of assistive devices and improve the overall well-being of persons with disabilities”.

During the discussions, education platforms and systems were among other key noted areas that must be inclusive and accessible to children and adults with disabilities, to foster more inclusive communities. This includes training educators to support diverse learning needs and ensuring that educational materials are available in accessible formats.  
Speaking at the same event, Ms Tafadzwa Muvingi UNDP Transformative Governance Team Leader added “.As Zimbabwe prepares its third Voluntary National Review (VNR) report and on the eve of the High Level Political Forum in July this year, which is expected to gather world leaders to review progress made on Agenda 2030, this platform offered an opportunity for Government through the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare and other Government Ministries to discuss on operationalising the leave no one behind principle through meaningful inclusion of persons with disabilities in SDG processes. You can see that more than forty persons with disabilities engaged in the process and raised key issues on benchmarking progress on inclusion based on data of how many persons with disabilities have been included in health, education, transport, justice, and governance programmes implemented by Government. UNDP is therefore pleased to be associated with this platform and more broadly the agenda of promoting disability inclusion in SDGs”.

Furthermore, Mr Leonard Marange, National Director, Federation of Organizations of Disabled People of Zimbabwe, highlighted that “the consultative process came at an opportune time when we are all keen to review the status of SDG implementation in Zimbabwe. As OPDs we feel that there should be deliberate and concise efforts to ensure that persons with disabilities are part of the SDGs review mechanisms”. 
OPDs also emphasized the importance of integrating disability rights and issues in national policy and legislative frameworks. This includes aligning national development plans with the SDGs and ensuring that these plans explicitly address the rights and needs of persons with disabilities. Policies should promote accessibility, inclusive education, employment opportunities, and healthcare services tailored to the needs and priorities of individuals with disabilities.

Ms Melissa Tariro Chiri, Chitungwiza Deaf Community, Vice President emphasized the critical need for sign language interpreters to enable effective communication in every state institution, including healthcare and education. Communication barriers for the deaf community are significant due to the limited utilization of sign language in these institutions, making it difficult for deaf individuals to access services and be included in different forums in society. 

Furthermore, Infrastructure and public services must adhere to principles of universal design, making them accessible to all individuals, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. This includes public transportation, buildings, communication technologies, and digital services. 
One of the significant outcomes of these collaborative efforts is the development of inclusive policies and action plans to provide a roadmap for governments and organizations to follow, ensuring that disability inclusion is embedded in all aspects of development. By adopting a rights-based approach, these policies aim to remove barriers and create opportunities for persons with disabilities to fully participate in society.

The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the implementation, monitoring, and reporting of the SDGs is essential to achieving the overarching goal of "leaving no one behind." By embedding disability inclusion into national policies, fostering inclusive and accessible service delivery, ensuring accessibility, promoting economic empowerment, and establishing robust monitoring and accountability mechanisms, will contribute to a more inclusive world where all individuals have the opportunity to thrive. As the global community works towards the 2030 Agenda, it is imperative to recognize and address the unique challenges faced by persons with disabilities, ensuring their full participation in sustainable development efforts.