By Nasem Khan Aliyar, Programme Manager for Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO)
"Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the world under a specific theme, including of Afghanistan. Civil society and government celebrate it almost every year in Kabul and some of other provinces. The objective is to pay respect to persons with disabilities and raise the awareness of the communities and authorities on the rights of persons with disabilities.
The National Disability Survey in Afghanistan shows that 2.7% of Afghans are people with severe disabilities, who need immediate care and intervention, 59% of them are men and 41% of them are women with disabilities. More 73% of children with disability do not have access to education and on average; there is one person with disabilities in each five households. Finally, women with disabilities face a double challenge: being women and being with disabilities (The National Disability Survey in Afghanistan (NDSA) 2005).
This year, IDPD is celebrated in Kabul both by civil society and government under the theme of “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”. We the civil society and persons with disabilities expect clear commitments from the authorities to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. So far, the achievements of the government are unsatisfactory: persons with disabilities face too many challenges in the communities which no policy and strategy address.
On the other hand, the number of persons with disabilities in the country is increasing day by day because of war, landmine or explosives. The Landmine Monitor Report 2016 we published last week shows that landmines/ERW caused 1310 civilians causalities in 2015: 34% of the victims were children and it represents a 1% increase in causalities in comparison with 2014 (Landmine Monitor Report 2016).
The Government of Afghanistan has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2012, Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) in Sep 2002, and United Nation Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in 2012. The ratification of these conventions obliges the State Parties to implement the provisions of these conventions by adopting internal policy. The government should regularly report to the United National Observation Committee on the implementation progress of the Conventions. However, the government of Afghanistan has not adopted any specific policy to implement the provisions of some of the Conventions, especially the UNCRPD.
In addition to the UN Conventions, the government of Afghanistan adopted the National Law on the Rights and Benefits of Persons with Disabilities (NLRBPLD) in 2009. This law is only on paper and has not been implemented by the government. The majority of the ministries ignore its provisions. For example, at least 3% of the government’s employees should be persons with disabilities while only 0.25% of in fact are. No specific procedure or policy was adopted to address this gap.
Along the government, civil society organizations (CSOs), like the Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization, Community Centre for the Disabled (ALSO), have played an important role in promoting disability issue in the country. They advocate continuously, provide technical support and encourage the government of Afghanistan to ratify the Conventions and include disability issues into government policies and programs. They have been playing a major role in service provisions for persons with disabilities in education, rehabilitation, public awareness, healthcare and employment since 2001. The government of Afghanistan still needs the support of CSOs in these areas as it has not taken necessary measures to practically respond to the needs of persons with disabilities, nor taken over the role of civil society in service provisions.
The bad news is that the CSOs are facing today important funding shortage. Most of the local disability focused organizations are closing down, or almost, due to the absence of funds. They are forced to close down their programs for persons with disabilities. Today, we urge the international community to continue their support to disability sector. If the trends goes on, it will be a great loss to the disability sector, as disability focused organizations will no longer have capacity work and their lessons learned might be lost. At the same time, the government of Afghanistan should prioritize and mainstream disability in its policies and programs, according to national and international laws promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Civil society organizations role is vital, not only in service provision but also in providing technical support to the government in disability issues.
The government of Afghanistan should plan and implement its commitments on disability. The effort should be cross ministerial.
The international community should continue funding the disability sector and considering it a priority. They should include recommendations of disability CSOs into their funding policy and improve disability mainstreaming in all development and humanitarian projects, on and off budget.
The international community should recognize the active role of civil society in the fight against exclusion. CSOs act as watchdogs, technical advisors and service providers for the benefits of people with disability and their programs should be sustained with appropriate and long term funding