Martin Horwood writes … an important day for disability and international development

A Remarkable Young ManSelect committee reports are often considered to be rather dry, even to the most politically active among us, which is why I feel particularly compelled to highlight the 11th report of the International Development CommitteeDisability and development.

The select committee decided to hold this inquiry because they had been told repeatedly by organisations like Sightsavers that our country’s aid system was not delivering for disabled people overseas. Lynne Featherstone also paid attention to these organisations and started championing the rights of disabled people in her first year as a minister, describing disability as the great neglected subject in international development.

Not only does the report, published Thursday, conclude that our development programmes are not delivering for disabled people, it also highlights the fact that disabled people are neglected to such an extent that it has economic consequences on developing countries and undermines DFID’s priority of cost-effectiveness. 80% of disabled people across the globe are unemployed, in Africa 90% of children with disabilities are not in education and all too often children with disabilities throughout the world are not considered important enough to receive proper healthcare. These are just some of the statistics highlighted in the report, and give a sobering overview of the disadvantages suffered by disabled people internationally.

The UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities back in 2009, and with a review coming in 2014, the committee report strongly recommends that we prioritise this as a policy to set an example to the international community.

This report reflects well on the Liberal Democrats. It was led by Lib Dem committee chair Sir Malcolm Bruce and highlights the excellent work of our own DFID minister, Lynne Featherstone. Liberal Democrats committed to fairness, equality and human rights worldwide should be proud that our people in Parliament and in government have ensured that disabilities are high up the development agenda.

I wrote last autumn that 2014 has the potential to be a watershed year for the world’s one billion people with disabilities and this report makes that more likely than ever.

* Martin Horwood is Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the South West of England & Gibraltar. He is a member of the European Parliament’s Iran delegation. He is Borough & parish councillor for Leckhampton, Gloucestershire.

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