Consulting the National Disability Strategic Plan Development
UN agencies, NGO networks, and ministries designed the second phase of the National Disabilitiy Strategic Plan to better include people with disabilities in society.
People with Disabilities (PWDs) are among the most vulnerable groups in Cambodian society. They often lack equal access to livelihood, education, training and employment. This lack of opportunity often alienates them from fully participating in their communities. In Cambodia, as is the case worldwide, young people and adults with disabilities experience significant discrimination, stigma, and exclusion - particularly young women, rural residents, and those with more severe impairments.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has made progress in the field of challenging social exclusion due to disabilities and has a rights-based and inclusive policy framework that promotes disability inclusion across the sectors. In 2009, RGC adopted the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of PWDs and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012. In 2014, the RGC adopted the National Disability Strategic Plan (2014 – 2018) and is now collaboratively working with UN agencies, civil society, and relevant line ministries to reflect and bring the learnings from last strategic implementation to the development of a more practical Disability Strategic Plan for the next phase (2019 – 2023). The NDSP has outlined an ambitious but appropriate set of solutions to the present challenges facing PWDs in Cambodia. However, to ensure the plan is implemented effectively, support and technical assistance are needed both at national and at sub-national level.
Engagement at all levels
Light for the World (LFTW), a CEA partner, became well placed to work collaboratively to support this NDSP development process due to its advocacy work, including capacity building to two governmental institutes: the Disability Action Council (DAC), which is the national coordination body on disability, and the Disability Action Working Group (DAWG), in which relevant ministries work together to consider including disability into their ministries' policies and programmes. Due to their long standing track record on promoting disability inclusion work at country and regional level, LFTW has been involved since March 2019 as a member of the DAWG on reviewing and developing NDSP II (2019 – 2023).
In their role as the only NGO representative in the DAC, trusted and appointed by RGC, LFTW has been officially part of high-level meetings and technical discussions on relevant disability legal framework developments and amendments since June 2019. This acknowledged their practical field experience, which was supported by CEA in LFTW’s project “Communicating for Advocacy – Inclusive local governance”. This project was part of LFTW’s advocacy role at national level and local level, together with their partner DDSP. Light for the World was able to engage at different levels in the process through various meetings, including physical workshops, online meetings and more recently the Telegram Group.
Due to the fora and village meetings organised by LFTW, PWD and authorities engaged in dialogue, which led to receiving detailed inputs for policy making. LFTW brought up these practical issues faced by people with disabilities to the working group and council and gave suggestions for inclusion in the NDSP II. For more direct input of PWD to policy development, LFTW lobbies for its relevant partners to provide direct inputs on NDSP II and they lobby to include their representative of women with disabilities and some of their partners to participate in providing feedback and inputs in this important national disability strategic development.
Top priority, despite COVID-19
By the collaborative efforts of relevant stakeholders, such as UN agencies, NGO networks, and RGC ministries, the second phase of NDSP was designed rather practically. This way, it offered more space for the different stakeholders to provide inputs, reflect and to use the learnings from the previous phase of NDSP development. As such, NDSP II (2019 – 2023) was developed with a clear activity framework and expected indicators with the consultation of roles and responsibilities, including the commitment of different line ministries and development partners. The NDSP II strategy was launched during the International Day of Persons with Disability (IDPD), 3rd December 2019.
In 2020, COVID-19 has interrupted the process and changed priorities of the stakeholders, especially RGC. It has become more difficult to put topics on the agenda as the pandemic is and will stay top priority. However, LFTW’s engagement in the process, supported through CEA, ensured greater engagement of most vulnerable groups and created a vehicle for voices of PWD to be represented nationally.