NEW DELHI: The impact of the climate crisis on persons with disabilities (PwDs) was one of the key themes of the ‘Civil 20 India’ working group conference under the G20 engagement process held on Monday in the national capital. The need to collect disaggregated data on disability to deliver effective policy was highlighted by different speakers during the deliberations that brought together over 500 participants from India and many of the G20 member countries.
The disability, equity and justice working group is one of the 15 groups within the Civil20 engagement process. At the inaugural session of the conference, secretary, department of empowerment of persons with disabilties of the ministry of social justice, Rajesh Aggarwal, highlighted the need to mainstream PwDs and endorsed the assertion made by disability groups that “nothing about us without us”.
Pavan Kumar Muntha, chief executive officer, of voluntary organisation, Swadhikaar cautioned about the consequences of climate crisis. “We are talking about disability within human beings but what we need to understand is that when climate becomes disabling it impacts everyone. Heatwaves for instance. The impact of these changes in our environment is much worse on people with disability,” he said.
“Hunger, poverty, health, education, livelihood – everything gets redefined in the face of climate crisis,” he said and called for collective action to address the challenge.
Shantha Rau Barriga, founding director of Human Rights Watch recommended that governments of G20 countries should develop systems to share information that is accessible to persons with disabilities during disasters starting from emergency warning systems, evacuation, rescue and support. She called for investments in inclusive disaster response and access to mental health for PwDs.
Nidhi Goyal, who herself is disabled and the executive director of non-profit organisation ‘Rising Flame’ is steering the working group as its main coordinator. The group — working towards developing a policy brief that is representative of persons with disabilities — has held consultations on subjects as wide-ranging as inclusive education, women with disabilities, meaningful participation, workforce inclusion, livelihood and New Age jobs, and access to health.
The conference on Monday brought to the fore voices of persons with disabilities on one platform. “Research shows that the cost of exclusion can be as high as 7% of the GDP of a country, hence it is important that persons with disabilities are at the table to ensure that the economic development is just, resilient, inclusive and sustainable,” Goyal said.
While stakeholders discussed subjects as diverse as inclusive economies and communties, getting future ready for education, skilling and livelihood, accessibility, there was a dedicated session on environment, climate justice, disaster risk reduction and disability.