Protecting civilians as a common endeavour: DGVN expert workshop in Braunschweig

Securing access to besieged areas of Aleppo, increasing patrols around UN House in Juba, or ending refugee maltreatment in Australian detention centres in Nauru: the protection of civilians from immediate harm is one of the core tasks of the United Nations system. There are few issues for which UN actors are so frequently in the news. Senior UN officials routinely criticize state authorities and non-state actors responsible for violence against civilians. Too often, the UN are in the spotlight themselves because they failed to live up to the expectations and responsibilities related to the protection of civilians, for example at the protection of civilians site in Malakal, South Sudan in February this year.

Research on how to better protect civilians from harm is essential in order to enable the UN to fulfil their charter-based mandate: creating a safer, fairer and more prosperous world for all. In this vein, we organized an expert workshop and network meeting on the common theme „Protecting civilians as system-wide challenge for the United Nations“, which took place from 15 to 17 July at the Technische Universitaet Braunschweig, Germany. It brought together around 20 junior scholars from Germany, Europe, the United States, and Brazil in order to facilitate academic exchange and build a network of scholars around the topic. The workshop was designed to take into account perspectives from three major policy fields: humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights. It took place in the context of the German Association of the United Nations and its working group on young UN research.

At a public panel discussion, a dedicated break-out session and the presentation of our own preliminary research, we discussed the distinction between the three policy fields of humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights, as well as open questions and debates within those fields. As the workshop itself took place under Chatham House rules, we only quote from the public panel discussion, and provide a general sense of the discussion during the rest of the event.

Discussing the results of the break-out session

Discussing the results of the break-out session

Humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights perspectives

The official definition of protection approved by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) for humanitarian action is much too broad for practical purposes. A tiered, increasingly ambitious understanding of protection is more helpful in that regard: ensuring access to humanitarian aid is the most basic definition of humanitarian protection, followed by ensuring access to protection services. More contentious are the roles humanitarian agencies can play in putting a stop to on-going rights violations, or even in furthering international criminal justice through witness statements and the collection of evidence. For Médecins Sans Frontières, protection frequently equates to really taking the principle of doing no harm seriously, said the director of the agency’s German chapter, Florian Westphal, at the panel discussion. Providing aid to displaced persons must not help armed groups locate them. The public and private advocacy that humanitarian organisations like MSF engage in always needs to make sure that people are actually better protected, even when the agencies want to ensure that they are not being seen as complicit with violations because of their (public) silence, Westphal argued.

UN peacekeeping is a highly political undertaking, even if senior UN officials and member states don’t always recognize it as such, claimed Peter Schumann, former chief of staff of the UN Mission in Sudan and long-term UNDP staff member. As the UN peace operation in South Sudan showed, too often member states create over-ambitious mandates without sufficient resources and political backing to meet the high expectations that the mission will actually protect the population from immediate threats of violence. UN peacekeeping operates largely according to a short-term logic: creating physical security for civilians, responding to their immediate needs. This may sit uncomfortably with the long-term requirement to develop a political strategy, for which the military can create space and which helps the warring parties move to a peaceful way to settle their disputes. Moreover, rhetorical commitments to the effective protection of civilians and national policies of member states in the Security Council as well as of individual troop contributing countries may differ significantly. Germany’s recent evacuation of its police personnel that was supposed to protect women and children as part of the UN Mission in South Sudan was one example mentioned at the workshop.

Human rights agencies have the most long-term perspective of the three policy fields. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), for example stresses not only that states have a primary responsibility to protect their populations from harm (as do humanitarian and peacekeeping actors). The methods OHCHR lists in its most recent management plan aim to enable rights-holders exercise their rights and to build the capacities of duty-bearers to guarantee fundamental human rights. Someone is always bound by human rights, and someone else is always entitled, as the break out group on human rights protection put it. However, some actors put themselves deliberately outside the international legal system, such as the so-called Islamic State or North Korea. Protecting those who defend human rights on the ground is an important, concrete task for international actors such as peace brigades international, said Christiane Schultz, who founded the organisation’s German section. The Committee on enforced disappearances can issue urgent measures, for example, and conduct country visits to raise individual cases and instigate structural change.

Over the three-day workshop, it became clear that protecting populations from harm is a hugely ambitious and complex undertaking. In all policy fields, there are gaps between rhetorical commitments and implementing promises on the ground. There can be differences between individual mandate-holders, national peacekeeping contingents, missions, institutions, and policy fields.

The main impediment to better protection are not the differences about the meaning, methods and objectives of protection per se – they are the natural and inevitable consequence of varying mandates and contexts. Rather, it is the lack of mutual understanding that leads to gaps in the protection architecture. It also misses out on opportunities to jointly tackle common challenges and recognise each other’s complementarity, in full recognition of their distinct mandates. Thus, there is much to learn from each other. Academic and policy exchange on the theme of protecting civilians from harm needs to intensify (for example here).

How to sell a UN reform to member states

Five lessons from the Human Rights Up Front initiative

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by Gerrit Kurtz

They had expected it anxiously. When I spoke with the UN officials working on the Secretary General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative last year, they were concerned the internal initiative could become intertwined in the polarized debates between UN member states on the role of human rights in the organization. The UN Secretary-General launched the initiative in 2013, with the aim to raise the profile of human rights in the work of the whole UN system. As a reaction to a devastating internal review panel report on the UN’s actions in Sri Lanka, the initiative includes a detailed action plan to improve the mechanisms for raising serious human rights violations with member states, for internal crisis coordination, and information management regarding such violations. The UN officials – rightly – felt that the new engagement of the UN system with member states that the initiative entailed had to build on its two other elements: cultural and operational change within the UN system, i.e. coherence between the development, peace and security and human rights arms of the UN.

As I argued in my policy paper published last July, Human Rights Up Front could not remain a pure UN matter; to be successful in the mid- to long-term, member states need to endorse it wholeheartedly. This includes an increased funding for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and an intergovernmental mandate for a more political role of UN Country Teams. In a letter on Christmas Eve 2015, the Secretary-General officially recognized the crucial role of member states: „While the Initiative is internal, its objectives speak to the purposes of the whole United Nations and will be greatly enhanced by support from Member States.“

On 27 January 2016, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson briefed the General Assembly on the initiative’s implementation since its inception more than two years ago. The broad support he received from the member states present holds five important lessons for selling UN human rights diplomacy more generally.

First, open consultations facilitate trust and transparancy. Many of the 22 member states and one regional organization (EU) that spoke during the informal briefing session, expressively welcomed the opportunity for open dialogue itself. While Eliasson had briefed member states twice before (in New York and Geneva) on Human Rights Up Front, and both he and Ban Ki-Moon referred to it in their speeches, the interactive session provided an opportunity to take stock with member states.

Second, take on board your critics. In reaction to previous comments from member states, Eliasson explicitly referred to the relevance of social, economic and cultural rights violations as precursors to physical violence and instability. China’s and Nigeria’s inputs duly acknowledged the importance of development for prevention.

Third, universality. The delegate from Iran asked how the UN could adequately respond to human rights violations in the Global North such as increasing xenophobia when most of its offices were in developing countries – a longstanding criticism in UN human rights forums. Eliasson emphasized the comprehensive reach of the early warning and coordination mechanisms, and compared it to the successful example of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the Human Rights Council, which commits every UN member state to a thorough peer-review of its human rights record. Indeed, the regional quarterly reviews, a new early warning and coordination mechanism introduced as part of Human Rights Up Front, look at all world regions. These coordination meetings bring together officials from divergent UN agencies to review adequacy of the UN’s response to potential risks for serious human rights violations.

Forth, association with existing mandates and agendas. Whenever the UN secretariat comes up with its own initiatives, it creates certain anxieties among member states eager to control the international bureaucracy. It was a sign of the Deputy Secretary-General’s successful outreach that no member state questioned the initiative and the role of the secretariat in coming up with it per se. In addition, Eliasson had his staff compile a list of the Charter provisions, treaties and resolutions by the General Assembly and the Security Council relevant to conflict prevention and human rights diplomacy. Responding to calls to do so for example by China, he also welcomed the role of conflict prevention as part of agenda 2030, in particular its goal 16.

Fifth, personal experience and credibility. Human Rights Up Front’s outreach benefits tremendously from having DSG Eliasson as champion in the secretariat. Not only did he conduct several mediation efforts himself, he was part of key normative and operative developments in the United Nations in the past twenty years that pertain to the Human Rights Up Front agenda. As first Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations, he saw at first hand the resulting coordination challenges for the newly created position of humanitarian coordinators, a task usually taken up by the existing resident coordinator and resident representative of UNDP. In 2005, he presided over the record-breaking World Summit as president of the General Assembly, which endorsed the notion of a responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes, and agreed on the establishment of the Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding Commission. Under his leadership, the General Assembly later agreed on the details of the Human Rights Council, including the UPR. All of this provides Eliasson with unrivaled credibility among member states; his diplomatic skills enable him to put this status into practice.

The overwhelmingly positive welcome in the General Assembly session should not disregard the fair and important questions that even constructive member states still have. Several representatives such as Australia and Argentina asked for concrete examples of the initiative’s implementation, and China wanted to know which experiences the Secretariat had made in the first two years of the action plan’s implementation. While much of the high diplomacy of the UN may be sensitive and should remain confidential for the time being, there is no reason why the UN could not report on efforts taken after the fact, in consultation with the country concerned. After all, OHCHR reports annually about its activities including on a country basis, as do other UN entities. Indeed, three UN officials wrote a blog entry for UNDG how Human Rights up Front had helped them in following up on Argentina’s pledges under the UPR mechanism.

Finally, the UN leadership should not shy away from calling remaining challenges within the UN system by their name. It is understandable that Eliasson and others prefer to stress how “enthusiastic” staff members have greeted the initiative. Yet the action plan has also included new tasks for OCHR, without generating new funding. The creation of a common information system on serious human rights violations was hampered by different understandings of the objectives of protection and varying standards for the protection of victims and witnesses of violations. The new universal human rights training for all UN staff was seen as ineffective and beside the point by a number of observers within the UN system. Most troublingly, an independent expert panel on sexual abuse and exploitation in UN peace operations pointed to „gross institutional failure“ in the UN system, exposing a serious deficit in the organization’s internal culture (Eliasson has, in fact, made the link with Human Rights Up Front at a press conference). If Human Rights Up Front is to gain more traction with member states, Eliasson and his team should confront these challenges head-on.

What Netflix’s Rita can teach us about the challenges to implement the right to inclusive education

by Julia Biermann

The definition of inclusive education, as entailed in the General Comment on Article 24 UN CRPD, offers an ambitious vision for the global change of education systems. This vision, however, not only challenges “old ways” of segregated special schooling, but often also attempts of inclusive schooling. The Netflix series “Rita” vividly captures this conundrum and, even more, provokes viewers to ask: does inclusive schooling require to partially separate students with special needs from their peers in special classrooms?

According to the recently released General Comment on Article 24 UN CRPD, inclusive education demands that all educational environments include and serve the needs of all students. From a position of moral and legal authority, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines within this document the right to inclusive education accordingly as »a process that transforms culture, policy and practice in all educational environments to accommodate the differing needs of individual students, together with a commitment to remove the barriers that impede that possibility« (paragraph 9). Though setting clear expectations for the direction of educational change on a global scale, one could say that this vision is overloaded with vagueness. Too vague to alter the desired effects in schools?

Here, Rita comes into play; a free-spirited Danish teacher starring the eponymous Netflix series. Troubled by the intricacies of life and school, Rita fights courageously for her students, most often in rather unconventional ways. In terms of inclusion, this becomes evident in Season 3 which thematically deals with the politically backed, though troublesome, process of – as they say in the series – »integrating inclusion students with learning disabilities«. Not only is this process poorly resourced, it also pushes the limits of solidarity of nearly all involved parties; e.g. teachers, pupils and parents alike complain that »inclusion students« disrupt the class and thus slow down the other students‘ learning. To fight the resulting school-wide »inclusion blues«, Rita – a passionate inclusive education advocate – uses some of the little additional funding to create an extra space for the inclusion students in the school’s basement. This space allows them to retreat occasionally from the regular classroom. In addition, Rita collects donations for one student who wishes to return to a special school.

Given the actual circumstances, one could argue that this pragmatic solution responds to the needs of all students; in fact, the »inclusion students« are happy to have this space of their own. But, does this solution also correspond to the General Comment’s vision of transforming school culture at large? To be precise, does the occasional or partial separation of pupils with »special needs« respond to their individual needs, or does it, unnecessarily, establish barriers that prevent inclusive education?

Instead of answering this question, I want to make it the object of analysis, i.e. analysing the gap between inclusive education rhetoric and actual implementation practices in more detail. For that reason, I refer to the concept of the interregnum.

Originally used to denote the period of transition between two rulers, Gramsci has broadened and deepened this concept in his “Prison Notebooks”. Accordingly, the interregnum refers to the transition between two social orders that is characterised by morbid phenomena and a fundamental institutional crisis, summarised in the much-quoted key statement: ‘The old is dying, yet the new cannot be born’. (see also Zygmunt Baumann 2013)

It is not difficult to link this concept to the analysis at hand. Article 24 UN CRPD legally requires states to fundamentally change education systems and guarantee that all educational facilities can accommodate the needs of all students. This transition, however, »contains more friction than flows« (Levitt and Merry 2009, 448), because we witness globally the continuation or even expansion of special schools and classrooms (for Germany e.g. Klemm 2013). This trend is also reflected in the Committees Concluding Observations on State Party Reports. Overall, this paradoxical development points to an institutional crisis of schooling caused by the human right to inclusive education. For me, this institutional crisis can be traced to one particular aspect: The difficult role of (partial) separation in the wake of the inclusive imperative.

In conclusion, while segregated special schooling loses its legitimacy with Article 24 UN CPRD, the vision of inclusive education as ‘one classroom for all’ is far from being a reality. Even more, it has the power to plunge education systems into an institutional crisis. The question that remains is how to deal with this situation. For me, to openly acknowledge the “inclusion blues” would be a first step towards a deliberative process to realise inclusive education. Why? Because it would allow to advocate for inclusive education while at the same time accepting the challenges of implementing this fundamental human right – just as Rita did.

The UN at 70: Diplomacy as the art of the possible

by Gerrit Kurtz

These days, people all over the world commemorate the founding of the United Nations 70 years ago. On 24 October 1945, the UN Charter entered into force and a new international organization was born out of the ashes of the Second World War and the Holocaust. Today, commemorating the UN is often an occasion to question its continuing relevance, and stress the need for its wholesale reform. Even UN enthusiasts are resigned; the best argument put forward is usually along the lines: there is no alternative to this universal international organization that provides a forum for world leaders, an authority on international norms, and a lifeline for millions affected by conflict, poverty, and disease.

The atmosphere was decidedly more upbeat at the recent commemorative event organized by the United Nations Association UK (UNA-UK), the civil society organization in the United Kingdom devoted to the United Nations. Bringing together around 1,000 guests in the medieval Guildhall in central London, the discussions and keynote speech underlined the nature of multilateral diplomacy. It is the art of the possible and often up to individuals, exploring the opportunities that lie in “the space between where your instructions end and you as a thinking negotiator invest your own thought”, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said once to The New York Times. His remarks at the event reflected this insight, just as much as the thorough recommendations from Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, and Hina Jilani, Pakistani Supreme Court Advocate in the panel discussion preceding the High Commissioner’s keynote. Both are members of The Elders, an advocacy organization on peace and human rights founded by Nelson Mandela.

Holding such an event in London had a particular historic significance: Just a few miles from Guildhall, the UN General Assembly met for the first time on 10 January 1946 in Westminster Methodist Central Hall. The UN Security Council followed a week later, with a meeting in Church House in Westminster, London.

More transparency for the Secretary General’s election and the use of the veto

Seventy years later, everyone agrees that the UN needs reform, but opinions diverge how that can be achieved. Three examples highlight areas where consistent advocacy and careful negotiations can advance the overall effectiveness and legitimacy of the United Nations and its work: electing the new Secretary General, the use of the veto in the Security Council, and transitional justice in Sri Lanka.

At the end of next year, the UN will choose a new Secretary-General, as Ban Ki-moon’s second term comes to an end. Traditionally, the five permanent members of the Security Council have decided on the final candidate just by themselves, without public debate, campaigns, or any meaningful inclusion of the General Assembly which could only confirm the lowest common denominator candidate the five powers could agree on. Improving this process is important, as Gro Harlem Brundtland outlined, as the Secretary General can prove an influential normative leader. To be able to work for the world community, he (or she!) needs to be independent and impartial, and all countries need to have the feeling that the Secretary General represents their common interest.

For this purpose, UNA-UK started the 1for7billion campaign. Its objective is to make the selection process of the Secretary General more transparent, including encouraging member states to suggest candidates that would run on an open platform, spelling out official criteria for the selection, informal meetings with the candidates by the General Assembly, and encouraging a female candidate.

Unrealistic? Requires a charter change? Actually, on 11 September 2015, the General Assembly adopted a resolution outlining all of the above principles. Activists, including The Elder member Brundtland, would like to see further changes such as limiting the term of the SG to one, non-renewable seven-year term, and the actual submission of more than once candidate by the Security Council to the General Assembly. Still, the 1for7billion campaign is a primary example how a civil society-led campaign can push the boundaries of multilateral diplomacy further.

The issue of restraining permanent members from using their veto in the Security Council is a tougher nut to crack. The French government, as well as a group of member states called the “Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group” (ACT) have assembled 73 member states behind their pledge not to use the veto in case of mass atrocities. Recently, the UK joined the French in signing up to the code of conduct for the permanent members, leaving the US, Russia, and China, which have all declared their opposition to the proposal. Here, The Elders member Jilani advocated that permanent members should at least be required to explain their position publicly, if they do decide to resort to the veto. This explanation could then provide the basis for further deliberation – and further pressure to find an agreeable solution.

Transitional justice in Sri Lanka

Lastly, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid delivered a passionate plea for the value of human rights in our time: refugees crossing a border illegally should not be regarded as criminals, he said. More than any other high-level official in the UN system, his office confronts him with evidence of the worst offences against ordinary human beings on a daily basis. Recounting a recent visit to Mexico, where he met with families of some of the 26,000 persons that have disappeared in recent years, he vented his frustration and despair: “It leaves you feeling empty”, he said. Still, “if we did nothing, the situation would have no chance of getting better”, he added defiantly.

Transitional justice in Sri Lanka is a recent example what a careful diplomatic approach can accomplish. On 1 October, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution, in congruence with the Sri Lankan government, recommending a host of measures designed to advance the process of reconciliation, accountability and non-recurrence more than six years after the end of the brutal civil war in the island nation. One particularly hard-fought issue was the inclusion of international judges in the judicial mechanism to investigate crimes and try perpetrators for international crimes.

Despite its general openness to work with international partners on reconciliation and accountability, the new Sri Lankan government had promised its electorate at home that alleged perpetrators would only be tried by domestic judges. For the high commissioner, as well as the UK and the US as main sponsors of the resolution, the decades-long history of delayed and flawed trials for human rights abuses in Sri Lanka meant that some international element was going to be crucial to make the mechanism meaningful. After hurried last-minute negotiations, the Sri Lankan diplomats finally agreed to the “participation of… Commonwealth and other foreign judges” in the Sri Lankan mechanism.

As Sir Jeremy Greenstock, chairman of UNA-UK, asked the High Commissioner whether he believed that this was actually enough, the latter pointed out that the Human Rights Council adopted his recommendations “almost in total” and that there was “immense legal expertise” in Sri Lanka. He is due to travel to the country until the end of the year to further clarify the implementation of the resolution.

Public consultations for the election of the new Secretary General, a code of conduct for Security Council action in situations of mass atrocities, and redress for massive human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s civil war: three recent examples how diplomacy, pushed by strong civil society advocacy, can make a difference at the United Nations. In a time where public debate is dominated by the failures of UN member states in Syria and Ukraine, as well as of UN staff in the Central African Republic or Darfur, it is important to highlight the role of individuals and their actions in international crises. Given a window of opportunity, individual diplomats, senior UN officials and civil society activists can meaningfully contribute to make the vision of the UN Charter a living reality, bit by bit.

A Compilation of UN Documents on Disability and Education

Lessons Learned and a “Hidden Treasure”

by Julia Biermann

Recently, I compiled a corpus of documents released by UN bodies that thematically deal with disability and education. This endeavour not only taught me lessons on the practicability of UN document search in general, but has also led to a “hidden treasure” which could be recaptured in the Post-2015 debate.

First, to the practical aspects of collecting thematic-based UN documents. I used different search engines and each proved to be useful in specific areas. A search via UNBISNET United Nations Bibliographic Information System is useful to open up the field and to get a broad overview, because it allows searching for documents, speeches or voting records by title, author, country or subject, including the possibility to match each of these items. Depending on how specific the search items are, the results, however, can be quite overwhelming. I felt the search via ODS Official Document Search more useful for content related searches as the search can include and exclude exact words or phrases of the title or body and in addition offers several filters – UN bodies, commission and years. UN Documents is the fastest and most convenient way if the specific document symbol is already know. For human rights related topics and searches I can recommend two search engines: the Universal Human Rights Index, which covers the UN human rights mechanisms and offers country-specific human rights information, and the Human Rights Documents, which allows searching by body and session. To find documents in other than the six official languages, the UN German Translation Section, for example, offers a wealth of translated documents from the UN bodies and on specific themes.

Using these tools led to 128 documents in my search on disability and education related documents, which was restricted to resolutions and reports released by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council. Especially two documents caught my interest, because they are no longer present in current debates on disability and education, but indeed worth noting.

First, the 2002 study Human Rights and Disability which was based on the initiative of the Commission on Human rights and was conducted by Gerard Quinn and Theresia Degener. This study paved the way towards connecting human rights and disability through exploring provisions in different UN conventions and mechanisms. Thus, the study offers quite an instructive overview about the historical way that finally led to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Between 2002 and 2008 several documents took up this study (A/HRC/7/61, A/HRC/4/75, E/CN.4/2005/82, E/CN.4/2003/82, E/CN.4/RES/2002/61).

For me, the real “hidden treasure” is the 2004 Report on the Right to Education of Special Rapporteur Vernor Muñoz Villalobos (E/CN.4/2005/50). In this report he suggests to use the concept “persons with different capacities” instead of frameworks that center on disability. He critiques that disability-centered frameworks overly treat persons as victims, underestimate their abilities and fail to impose the obligations to change on education systems rather than individuals. Interestingly, however, the Special Rapporteur`s 2005 report on Girls` Right to Education (E/CN.4/2006/45) refers only once to capacity (the capacity of all to respect and exercise human rights) and three times to girls and children with disabilities (their exclusion from education and respectively the formulation of inclusive policies). The 2007 report on The Right of Persons with Disabilities to Education (A/HRC/4/29) speaks twice about capacities of persons with disabilities and efforts to build these.

Unfortunately, I haven´t found an answer why the 2004 proposal did not create momentum. But, I found the concept “persons with different capacities” quite compelling, as it contributes to overcome the distinction, and eventually institutionalisation, of two worlds – one for persons with disabilities and one for those without disabilities.

Accordingly, this framework allows to (scientifically) reflect on current debates about a disability-inclusive Post-2015 agenda (A/RES/69/142, A/RES/68/3) and its related education goals (Incheon Declaration), either in contrast or in addition to approaches that center around (educational) disability.

To conclude, to look back can indeed be helpful to look forward.

The Creation of Disability through Data Collection and Dissemination of Lists

Or: The Effects of Education for All through Data on All

von Julia Biermann

One question has haunted me for a long time: Is it necessary to solidify disability as a classification factor to overcome stigmatisation and marginalisation due to disability? To approach this question I refer to the new Post-2015 development agenda, in particular the education related goals and the formulation of indicators that would enable to measure respective progress. First, I argue that this paradox – solidifying disability to diminish its impact – derives from the bureaucratic logic of the international system that requires that persons with disabilities show up in its lists. Second, I argue that the Post-2015 world will thus “create” more people with disabilities in order to fight their stigmatisation and marginalisation. My point is that lists, compiled to prove indicators, not only produce legitimacy, but also disability.

Currently, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) has launched a global consultation on Post-2015 education indicators for the reshaped education goal of ensuring equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030. This goal is enshrined in the so-called Muscat Agreement and was adopted during the 2014 Global Meeting on Education for All in Oman. To monitor future progress, this project necessarily requires data, for example on enrolment and completion of schooling but also on abstentions and early dropouts. Furthermore, data will also need to be disaggregated for example by gender, location, socio-economic background and dis/ability, because the goal targets all (!), thus including those who face a disadvantage, difficulty or disability. To be able to evaluate whether the goal and its seven targets are met by international programs and funding, the realities of schooling need to be transformed into lists and are thus incorporated into the bureaucratic logic of inter/national organisations and their accounting systems.

Lists comprise indicator-based data collections, which require certain models and concepts – for example of disability. Until today, however, only little data is available on persons with disabilities, because of two relevant aspects: First, persons with disabilities were and still are overwhelmingly marginalised and neglected at the societal and policy level all over the globe, which however started to change in the wake of the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Secondly, what actually counts as a disability is ultimately tied to the context itself. Accordingly, the UN Statistic Division states: Due to differences in the concepts and methods used to identify persons with disabilities, prevalence rates should not be compared across countries”. But how can we then compare the education of children with disabilities within the post-2015 inclusive development framework?

The paper “Towards indicators for a post-2015 education framework” elaborates on the possibilities and challenges “to globally track the targets (which) should ideally meet a range of standards that ensure technical strength, feasibility, frequency of reporting, cross-national comparability and availability over time”. The paper also refers to difficulties in assessing disability and thus does – at this stage – not contain related indicators. Accordingly, the currently discussed indicators do not allow to assess the inclusiveness of education systems, because this would not only require to know how many children with a disability have access to, are in and complete schooling, but also which children do have an impairment or disability. It seems as if this circumstance constitutes a deadlock to the bureaucratic logic itself – the need of objective data on disability vs. the ultimate context-dependency of disability concepts and data.

Nonetheless, global monitoring requires global indicators based on concepts that then become global as well. At this point, Rottenburg`s work on “Far-fetched Facts” gives inspiring insights into the “Secret of Lists” and their ultimate consequences:

“A list is a record of things or abstract statements that have been removed from their context and written down one after another as facts. The classification system and selection principle according to which the facts in a list are chosen is not included in the list itself. (…) These observations seem trivial at first glance. This is because the classification and selection work that precedes every list has successfully been rendered invisible. Using the language of Mary Douglas, the classification system that the list is based on has become so well institutionalized that it is erroneously viewed as being a characteristic of the thing itself.” (p.137).

 Against this background, I argue that indicator-based lists and surveys not only bring out and solidify disability, but transform disability into a necessary and inescapable attribution. The attempt to make societies more inclusive and in which disability becomes less of a barrier requires to emphasise disability even more. Thus, the question remains whether this attribution might lead to more visibility, emancipation and also more resources or whether it instead increases stigmatization. This paradox needs to be carefully examined in each context, project and survey – as each of it creates disability.

The UIS global consultation runs until 30 January 2015.

Was kommt nach 2015?

Ein Kurzinterview mit Janina Hasse-Mohsine, Second Secretary Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, zu den Ergebnissen des High Level Meetings on Disability and Development

Am 23. September 2013 fand das High Level Meeting on Disability and Development der UN-Generalversammlung statt. Ziel dieses Treffens war es, die Rechte von Menschen mit Behinderungen ins Zentrum der Debatte um die MDG-Nachfolgeziele zu rücken. Das Abschlussdokument verankert daher eine barrierefreie und inklusive Entwicklungszusammenarbeit.

Die Vereinten Nationen haben zum ersten Mal ein High Level Meeting (HLM) dem Thema Behinderung  und Entwicklung gewidmet. Ein historisches Ereignis? Warum?

Das HLMDD (High Level Meeting on Disability and Development) ein historisches Ereignis zu nennen wäre übertrieben. Die Tatsache, dass es jetzt zum ersten Mal ein hochrangiges Treffen im Rahmen der VN zu diesem Thema gab ist eher eine natürliche Konsequenz der Dynamik, die das Thema in den letzten Jahren als Ganzes gewonnen hat und die insbesondere durch die Behindertenrechtskonvention in Gang gesetzt wurde. Diese ist das eigentliche historische Ereignis, welches jetzt in die verschiedenen internationalen Prozesse einwirkt. Da die Behindertenrechtskonvention einen eigenen Artikel zur Internationalen Zusammenarbeit enthält ist es natürlich, dass man in der Internationalen Gemeinschaft nun gemeinsam konkretisiert was dies genau bedeutet. Hierfür sind solche Treffen sehr gut geeignet.

Das Motto des HLM lautete „The way forward: A disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond“. Zukunftsfähige Entwicklung soll inklusiv gestaltet werden. Was muss sich dafür ändern?

Das wichtigste Instrument für eine zukunftsfähige behinderteninklusive Entwicklung ist sicherlich weiterhin die Behindertenrechtskonvention. Die Themenfelder Bildung, Gesundheit, soziale Sicherung und Beschäftigung haben für eine systematische Inklusion in die Gesellschaft eine besondere Rolle und wurden als solche auch auf dem HLMDD bestätigt. Bisher gibt es aber kaum oder nur sehr unzureichende statistische Daten über die Situation von Menschen mit Behinderungen, was es erschwert sich gemeinsame internationale Ziele zu geben, welche die Inklusion von Menschen mit Behinderungen sinnvoll berücksichtigen. Das hochrangige Treffen der VN zum Thema Behinderung und Entwicklung hat jetzt einen Prozess vorgegeben, wie die Staatengemeinschaft dieses Thema weiter im Kontext einer Post-2015 Agenda diskutieren möchte. So wird der Generalsekretär (GS) aufgefordert in seinem periodischen Bericht zu „Behinderung und Entwicklung“ Empfehlungen für weitere Schritte zur Implementierung des Abschlussdokumentes im Kontext der Post-2015 Entwicklungsagenda auszusprechen und der Präsident der Generalversammlung wird aufgefordert in der kommenden Generalversammlung (ab September 2014) den Status und Fortschritt für die Realisierung der Entwicklungsziele für Menschen mit Behinderungen weiterzuverfolgen.

Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, addresses the General Assembly’s HLMDD. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, addresses the General Assembly’s HLMDD.
UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Welche Rolle spielt Deutschland in diesem Prozess?

In der internationalen Diskussion ist Deutschland zunächst einmal nur eines von 193 Mitgliedsstaaten. Gleichwohl hat Deutschland mit Blick auf eine inklusive Entwicklungszusammenarbeit eine hervorstehende Rolle zusammen mit Ländern wie Australien, Finnland und Norwegen. Als erstes Land in Europa hat Deutschland einen eigenen Aktionsplan zur Inklusion von Menschen mit Behinderungen in der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit verabschiedet und bringt das Thema auch immer wieder in internationale Verhandlungen ein.

Das Interview führte Julia Biermann.