SRI LANKA’S Government last year decided to formulate a National Action Plan for the differently-abled. While this step in a long-delayed sphere must be applauded, the persistent gap between policy and practice regarding mainstreaming the perspectives of persons with disabilities insist that this emotive response be tempered with some level of pessimism. Could upcoming elections make the difference?
Sri Lanka’s ‘national plans’, for all the grandeur the term evokes, have a tendency to remain limited to paper while being hampered by bureaucracy, sporadic funding, changing policies and limited interest of stakeholders. Time and again the importance of providing equal opportunities to the differently-abled has been highlighted, but even providing them with access had to be fought for by a differently-abled person and the order to make buildings accessible to this group was attained via the Supreme Court rather than policies.
A national strategy should provide a framework of interrelated goals and resulting targets for the Government to chart a plan of action suited to its national context. Those goals and targets are further guided by indicators for measuring progress. The goals and targets themselves cover a number of sectors, including poverty, social protection and employment, participation, accessibility, children with disabilities, gender equality, disaster-preparedness and management, data and statistics, ratification and implementation of the UN Convention and development cooperation at all levels.
Time-bound, measurable targets monitored through the collection and analysis of disability data can accelerate the achievement of commitment at the national, regional and global levels. Clear targets and indicators are critical to guiding the coordination of efforts and the continuous monitoring of progress, as well as for assessing the impact of policies and programs and adjusting the allocation of resources accordingly. This will maximise the potential impact on the goal of equalisation of opportunities on the ground for persons with disabilities.
The successful implementation of policy frameworks turns on the capacity of individuals and institutions. Capacity assessment can provide a basis for the creation of tailored approaches to capacity development that may include training packages and programs, resource manuals or toolkits and the provision of technical support, especially to developing countries.
Mechanisms to ensure accountability are an essential element for ensuring delivery on mandates. The system-wide approach of the United Nations includes governance instruments which cover all aspects of accountability, ranging from mandated objectives to the delivery of results.
For these reasons, the strengthening or creation of relevant processes and mechanisms with minimum accountability standards would be an important component of a follow-up framework for the mainstreaming of disability in development at all levels.
Potential elements of accountability for inclusion in a follow-up strategy include the development of policies on the mainstreaming of disability; the development of plans of action to implement such policies; the development of mechanisms to ensure accountability at a senior level for results in mainstreaming disability and carrying out audits to assess the extent to which organisations and their staff are meeting the goals and targets.
Disability-inclusive development can also be advanced by sharing existing information. The utility of existing research and information, including statistical data, research publications and information on best practices, is maximised by their broad dissemination. Academics, civil society organisations and other stakeholders also have to be encouraged to continue their participation in this process of inclusivity for a national action plan to be truly successful.