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Debate: A unique Nordic opportunity to take a radical step

MENIGNER: Today is International Day for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This year, it is extra important to mark this day. There is something in the air, and the Nordic countries also seem to have gotten the hang of it. That is at least the conclusion in a report made by disabled people's organizations in the Nordic countries. The radical move is to take the principle that "No one should be left out" seriously - in the form of what is called "Progressive universalism".

Reports Leaving No One Behind? A Nordic Movement for Change, looks at how Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland can use the Global Disability Summit, which was held in London in July this year, to strengthen the implementation of the UN's sustainability goals. The ambitious sustainability goals struggle to live up to the principle behind them, namely that no one should be left out, known as Leave No One Behind (LNOB).

Global Disability Summit - a crossroads

A representative source in the report puts it this way: “Only four years ago, such a Global Disability Summit would have been impossible. There would have been no interest in it. " In other words, donor organizations and politicians are beginning to take on the challenge we face.

In what way can the global summit strengthen the Nordic region's already strong development cooperation in ways that contribute to promoting the disabled and the LNOB principle? Reports Leaving No One Behind? A Nordic Movement for change summarizes Nordic development intentions and measures in this field, and provides advice on the way forward.

Both governments and organizations now have a unique opportunity to take important steps to achieve the sustainability goals. All the Nordic countries write in their respective development reports that they want to reach the very weakest segments of society, including people with disabilities. Finland has even made this the country's main focus in its development assistance. Here the other three countries have something to learn. But both Norway, Sweden and Denmark have a strong focus on human rights in everything they do, and that is a good start. The Swedish government also emphasized in its 2018 allocation letter to Sida that they want a clear account of what the country is doing within its development policy for the rights of the disabled.

A new principle

Norway made a positive mark during the summit in London, and announced that they would provide NOK 50 million to ensure education for children with disabilities. The money will be used in a new initiative for inclusive education (Inclusive Education Initiative) and is a collaboration that currently includes the World Bank, Norad and the British Ministry of Development Dfid. The aim of the initiative is, among other things, to finance better statistics and research in addition to helping education plans to include children with disabilities.

But the report goes a few steps further and proposes what is called progressive universalism as a new principle. It is LNOB in a nutshell, "the last shall be the first". The key to "LNOB" is prioritization and separate schemes for the most marginalized groups. If we constantly take the lowest-hanging fruit, that is, implement policies only among the relatively better-off groups first, and those who are marginalized and discriminated against later, the existing gap between them is likely to widen. With close to a billion people with disabilities in the world today, and 80 per cent of these in developing countries, it goes without saying that the SDGs will never be reached, unless an effort is made.

Significant changes

This means a significant increase in support and funding for the most marginalized in all sectors and groups. Activities where the disabled are the main target group should increase to at least 1% of Nordic development assistance grants by 2021. Finland is already well above this target, but the other Nordic countries still have some way to go. Likewise, all development assistance funds should be used so that they also reach people with disabilities. In the short term, the level should be at least 25% of the total national development assistance budget by 2022.

It also requires more of us all to follow how our Nordic funds are actually used for an inclusive development. The Nordic countries announced during the summit that from 2019 they will use the OECD's marker to get a full overview of which projects are inclusive for the disabled or targeted at this group. It is an important start. At the same time, we must all develop better mapping tools and methods for data collection at the household level. We must also demand better cross-sectoral cooperation, so that inclusive development becomes a mainstay of all our international efforts.

Greater flexibility

Denmark and Finland have a significant degree of flexibility when it comes to financing civil society organizations that conduct solidarity work in the south. Danish Disability Organizations and its 34 member organizations receive approx. 43 million Danish kroner a year without a deductible requirement. In Norway, a 10% deductible is required on all funds from Norad.

We are now looking forward to a positive dialogue with our various Nordic development assistance and development partners, for how we will be able to raise the sustainability goals in the years to come, by including those at the back of the queue. And we hope our respective ministers take on the following challenge: The Global Disability Summit 2022 must be added to the Nordic region. Which country is taking on the challenge?

Jesper Hansén
Secretary General of MyRight, Sweden

Anja Malm
General Manager Disability Partnership Finland

Thorkild Olesen
chairman of the Danish Handicap Organizations

Morten Eriksen
general manager of the Atlas Alliance

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