The IDA-IDDC Bridge CRPD-SDGs Global Training on Article 11 was the first-ever global training initiative on Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to bring together Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs) and humanitarian representatives. The training, held in Lebanon over eight days of intensive immersion, from 20–27 June 2019, brought together leaders from the disability movement and experienced humanitarian actors in a safe space for open dialogue and constructive exchange, exposing participants and facilitators to each other’s work and encouraging genuine peer learning and mutual accountability. The aim was to build stronger relationships to help realise CRPD Article 11, the Sendai Framework and the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.
The initiative brought together 38 participants and facilitators – half of them women, and a third from under-represented groups of people with disabilities – from 31 countries across five regions, using four languages, three national Sign Languages and 12 interpreters. The objective was to pilot a capacity development mechanism that could foster dialogue, cooperation and exchange between disability activists and humanitarian actors, creating a safe space for relationship-building, genuine learning and peer exchange that would ensure mutual recognition of the value to humanitarian actors of disability movement learning, and vice-versa.
The Bridge CRPD-SDGs Initiative had a strong impact on my knowledge and supported me in my advocacy and technical activities, widened my knowledge on the CRPD and helped me on how to instrumentalise it. For instance, I was able to work with the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (Elrha) – reviewing CRPD-compliance of applications on humanitarian interventions. I worked with the Leprosy Mission in Nigeria and HAND – a local partner of CBM – on how to make inclusive responses on their work. Again, I acted as advisory member of the International Rescue Committee on disability inclusion, supporting on how humanitarian actions can be further inclusive of persons with disabilities. Currently, I am the ADF Project Officer for the Inclusion Works Project in Nigeria.
(Sulayman AbdulMumuni Ujah)
This was also the first attempt to put together a joint learning curriculum aimed at meeting the needs of the two constituent groups. Designed over two years by, with and for persons with disabilities and their representative organisations and humanitarian and development actors, the organisers held three separate workshops to create, review and validate the curriculum. Humanitarians were keen to have practical and immediate answers on how to deliver inclusive humanitarian programming, but were not necessarily interested in understanding the detail of how the CRPD underpins a rights-based approach to humanitarian programming, or the ways in which disability movements would like to be engaged in humanitarian action. For their part, disability activists wanted an easy handbook showing how the humanitarian infrastructure, programmatic decision-making and programme processes work, with a straightforward road map of where and how they can engage to address CRPD non-compliance in humanitarian systems.
Overall, the training was evaluated as extremely positive. Both DPO representatives and humanitarian actors evaluated the inclusive facilitation styles and tools of the Bridge CRPD-SDGs Article 11 initiative as unique. But there were challenges. The curriculum was heavy for humanitarian actors, and a preparatory day was requested in future training, as well as a more consolidated pre-reading pack to better orient participants on the basics of the CRPD. Participants from DPOs said that they would have liked more time to understand the humanitarian system and infrastructure, and would have liked more pre-reading on this. Another challenge was to ensure a balance between humanitarian actors and DPO representatives. The planned ratio of 2:1 was not managed, as one humanitarian had to cancel at short notice and another’s visa was delayed. Both had significant relevant experience that would have created more intensive exchanges. Many of the humanitarian participants also felt that they would need more senior leadership buy-in from their agency, and that, in addition to the training, there was a need for shorter immersion opportunities to engage decision-makers within humanitarian agencies to help them understand the importance of shifting humanitarian processes and systems to be more inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities.
The great impact of Bridge CRPD-SDGs was that I was best equipped to deliver capacity-building of organisations of persons with disabilities, mainstream organisations, and government organisations to ensure disability-inclusive DRR. Also working with NGOs for post-disaster response e.g. rebuilding livelihoods.
The secret ingredient of the curriculum was in fact the participants themselves: as many good capacity-development programmes show us, it is the wealth of knowledge and experience that participants bring that provides the richness and the space for learning within and beyond the curriculum, particularly, in this case, with such a diverse group.
Humanitarian action was already my area of work but participating in Bridge CRPD-SDGs Article 11 allowed me to connect DPO members with multiple projects my organisation is implementing, from accountability to affected populations to early childhood development and family violence.
The results of the training show how humanitarians and disability activists can create genuine mutual learning that is both challenging and rewarding. All participants valued the opportunity to learn alongside each other, and very much appreciated the informal learning spaces that the training opened up.
The great impact of Bridge CRPD-SDGs was the change that our community of refugees with disabilities experienced after sharing with them the knowledge that I got from the Bridge Uganda and talking with UNHCR, OPM, Inter Aid Uganda as Implementing Partner of UNHCR. Refugees with disabilities started to be involved in different programmes and projects and are being involved in decision-making and consulted before all projects and programmes regarding persons with disabilities and refugees. Not only that the number of refugees with disabilities who are resettled, and resettlement programme has increased compared to before the Bridge Uganda and I and our community are very proud of that step.
The Article 11 training tried to create an environment where everyone’s expertise was valued and shared equally. This was in contrast to typical humanitarian or rights-based training, where one specialist group or another are in control of delivering often very prescribed training. Bridge Article 11 created a space where both areas of expertise – of humanitarian action and of applying the CRPD – were valued and could be drawn upon. No one group was dominant and no hierarchy was created, so that sessions, exercises and simulations allowed for reflection and peer exchange and learning.
The training was helpful at the professional level, but it had a huge impact at the personal level. Thank you, trainers, organisers and facilitators for such valuable lessons. I have not felt/learned something like this in many years. It entirely changed my perspective on how I look at the humanitarian/development field. I reflected on how the world we are living in is designed to accommodate the needs of persons who do not have disabilities; I was able to not only identify this but to look at it as a structural problem. I took many learnings from the training including that all is about involvement of persons with disabilities. Based on the outcome of this training, we would amend our call for proposals to put conditions in place for implementing partners to include consultation and involvement of persons with disabilities at the community level prior to land release and to accommodate rights and needs of persons with disabilities for risk education.
Through this experience, IDA and IDDC realised that, for genuine participation and learning to take place, we all had to be ready to let go of any pretence that any of us, including the facilitators, have all the answers. People can be supported by guidance and tools, but this can never equate to the power of learning where people directly and openly share lived experiences: the painful mistakes, the successes, the embarrassments and the totally unexpected.
As a result of being part of the Bridge CRPD-SDGs Article 11 training, I was confident to advocate to the government on humanitarian issues, on the necessity for priority attention of persons with disabilities in disaster risk reduction and emergencies cases such as during election violence, flooding and fire outbreak in the community where persons with disabilities were affected. I also gave some first-hand awareness and education programmes to the community on early alert and quick evacuation for persons with disabilities.
The Bridge CRPD-SDGs Global Article 11 is a multi-actor initiative. Different actors and agencies are welcome to support joint capacity-development work with DPOs and humanitarians to create stronger relationships and engagement for an inclusive humanitarian sector. For further information, see our flyer and webpage. The Bridge CRPD-SDGs Coordination team (Tchaurea Fleury, Amba Salelkar and Alradi Abdalla) would be happy to discuss the initiative, its history, results and ways to engage.
Tchaurea Fleury is Director of Capacity Building, International Disability Alliance, based in Geneva. Sulayman AbdulMumuni Ujah is the National Project Officer for the International Disability Alliance through the Africa Disability Forum’s Inclusion Work/Organisations of Persons with Disabilities engagement in Nigeria.