The European Union (EU) adopted the new EU Consensus on Development on May 19, 2017. This is the first step for the EU to coordinate a response on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Development cooperation, the Rights of persons with Disabilities and the European Union
The European Union and its Member States (MS) play a crucial role in international fora, not only because of its political influence but also because it is the biggest donor in International Cooperation. Coherence and political will are essential for the EU and its MS to implement international frameworks. In this regard, the EU launched the first EU Consensus on Development in 2006, a strategy on which all subsequent development policies and programmes were based with the aim of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In a parallel process, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2006, whose Article 32 focused on International Cooperation establishes the importance of promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in development cooperation efforts. However, the MDGs did not include any reference to the rights of persons with disabilities; therefore disability rights were also excluded from the first EU Consensus on Development. Despite this lost opportunity, the EU demonstrated its support to the rights of persons with disabilities by ratifying the CRPD in 2011.
The Post-2015 process concluded with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 7 references to persons with disabilities in addition to a more inclusive language that leads to the motto “Leave no one behind”. In that spirit and after a long and complex process, the EU and its MS adopted the new EU Consensus on Development on 19 May, which includes two specific references to persons with disabilities and a paragraph highlighting the linkages between disability and poverty and how the EU should base its implementation process in line with the CRPD. It also mentions the need to address mental health to promote human dignity and prosperity.
The process of achieving a Consensus
In September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in New York. In November 2016, the European Commission (EC) launched the “Proposal for a New European Consensus for Development”, with two references to persons with disabilities and an additional one on women and girls with disabilities. However, there was a lack of clear guidance on how to implement the Consensus considering the rights of persons with disabilities, due to the lack of reference to the CRPD despite its ratification by the EU. CBM identified two priorities: the inclusion of specific references to CRPD and the need to include data disaggregation by disability.
In order to achieve these objectives, CBM advocated as member of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC). CBM also collaborated in the advocacy work of CONCORD and SDG Watch Europe in order to include the rights of persons with disabilities in the responses of mainstream development organisations. Through the European Parliament (EP) response of the EU Consensus on Development proposal, published in February 2017, CBM achieved to raise awareness on the need to include the CRPD as one of the frameworks to implement the SDGs. In addition, CBM also advocated directly with Member States by their Permanent Representations to the EU, focused mainly on the need to include data disaggregation by disability.
The process of developing a common understanding on the implementation of the SDGs was complex, due to the challenge of harmonising different understandings from the very different countries that are part of the European Union. Migration was the most challenging topic discussed during the adoption of the Consensus. CBM supports and shares the first reactions from CONCORD which highlights the concern “about the overall direction of European development cooperation, progressively instrumentalised in favour of migration control, securitisation and the private sector”.
The EU towards inclusive development cooperation
The new Consensus will be the guideline for the EU to adopt policies and programmes on development cooperation in the next 13 years. This framework will be the base for influencing EU budget, bilateral and multilateral agreements and mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities in development policies.
CBM will support the implementation of this framework, promoting a human rights based approach and supporting the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as one of the main actors to guarantee human rights and sustainability.