Dan Jones, RESULTS UK’s Campaigns Manager, on being newly wedded and catching up on a major announcement at the UN in New York…

A child in school uses sign language
A child in school uses sign language. Image copyright Ben Langdon / VSO.

I return to the office a married man! After leaving for honeymoon I deliberately let my phone run out of battery, determined to avoid the temptation to catch up on the latest updates from the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York (the new Mrs Jones would not have been impressed!). And so I returned to the office not knowing that a major announcement on disability and education had happened while I was away. And what a way to wash away the post-honeymoon blues!

As all our grassroots volunteers know, RESULTS UK has been campaigning for literally years to strengthen the focus of UK aid on supporting the education of disabled children. Children with disabilities are among the most marginalised of all groups from education, making up an estimated one third of the 57 million children of primary age currently out of school around the world. In some countries being disabled makes a child twice as likely to never enrol in school. And so I was thrilled to read that Lynne Featherstone MP, representing the UK’s Department for International Development at a special UN High Level Meeting on Disability and Development, had taken the opportunity to announce a major prioritisation of disability in DfID’s work.

The Minister announced that all future schools built with UK support in developing countries will be designed to be accessible to disabled children. She went further, confirming that DfID had given more funding to their Disability Rights Fund, which supports the work of Disabled People’s Organisations in developing countries. She also called for a global partnership to improve the visibility of disabled people through improving data, evidence and international sharing of best practice in removing the barriers for disabled people trying to access services like education. Finally, she said that the UK would play its part in supporting the governments of developing countries to deliver on their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Lynne Featherstone MP signs disability declaration at UN in New York.
Lynne Featherstone MP signs disability declaration at UN in New York. Picture: Fernando Olivas/ IDA & IDDC

She said:

“Disability has long been the poor relation amongst our development goals, indeed the great neglect of the developing world, but now we’re finally seeing this issue get the attention it needs.

The UK will play its part. As the Minister responsible for disability, within the UK Department for International Development, I am determined to make people with disabilities a key development priority.”

She went on to urge the international community to ensure that post-2015 development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) must not fail again to include disabled people.

“It’s imperative we address this, as we reflect on lessons from the MDGs and agree successor goals. The UN’s High Level Panel reported on what these goals could look like earlier this year. And the most powerful message in this ambitious report was that we should leave no one behind – and I think that is a fantastic set of words we should use whenever we can – regardless of disability, gender, geography, ethnicity, race. No one must be denied universal human rights and basic education.”

You can read the full speech here and DfID’s press release here.

If you are a grassroots volunteer with RESULTS, please take a moment to celebrate this success. You know how hard you have worked on this issue. Together we have written to Ministers and MPs, built relationships with Paralympians, gone to parliament to demand action, got articles in the media, met with civil servants, and worked with lots of other organisations. See – you really do have the power.

Of course this isn’t the end of our campaign. There’s lots more we want DfID to do to help get all children with disabilities into school and learning, whether it’s ensuring teacher-training is inclusive or innovative approaches to reaching out-of-school disabled children are supported.  There also remains a major challenge to ensure that new post-2015 development goals are inclusive of disabled people (it was very disappointing to see that the final outcome document of the UN’s main MDGs Summit just two days after the disability event failed to include the word “disability”). So we’ll be continuing to work on this issue next year.

But for now, what a good day this is.

P.S. It’s always good to acknowledge when the Government makes a commitment that you have asked for and support, so why not take a moment to email or Tweet to thank DfID, Lynne Featherstone MP or your MP if they have helped you in this campaign?