FEEDBACK – A panel-debate to shed the light on rehabilitation in development | December 10, 2019

Conference room

In the frame of the European Disability and Development Week (3-10 December), Humanity & Inclusion organised the panel-debate “Rehabilitation for inclusive development: optimal functioning, full participation!”, in order to discuss the potential of rehabilitation in development policies and programmes. On 4th of December in Brussels, stakeholders from the European Commission, from Enabel (The Belgian Development […]

In the frame of the European Disability and Development Week (3-10 December), Humanity & Inclusion organised the panel-debate “Rehabilitation for inclusive development: optimal functioning, full participation!”, in order to discuss the potential of rehabilitation in development policies and programmes.

conference room
Participants to the panel-debate organised by HI on the 4th of December, in Brussels. ©HI

On 4th of December in Brussels, stakeholders from the European Commission, from Enabel (The Belgian Development Agency), and from civil society organisations (Light for the World and Liliane Foundations) participated in the panel debate, with a view to foster dialogue across the fields of disability, health, and development.

Carlotte Kiekens, moderator of the debate from the International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, set the framework for the discussion: the World Health Organization’s initiative “Rehabilitation 2030” has triggered positive developments; however, rehabilitation is not yet a political priority.

The event started with the presentation of the Report “Rehabilitation for the realization of human rights and inclusive development”, recently published by Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and the Global Rehabilitation Alliance (GRA). This report situates disability and rehabilitation within global discourse and policy and highlights that rehabilitation plays a key role in enacting both the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The institutional speakers recognized the need to make rehabilitation and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities better known by global development actors.  Manuel Couffignal, from the European Commission Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, highlighted the risk of having a congestion of priorities in terms of agenda-setting, resulting in calls for action on too many different health areas. He pointed out that policy processes around universal health coverage represent an important window of opportunity lo leverage rehabilitation in external aid, since rehabilitation is recognized as a core health strategy that needs to be integrated in essential packages of care. Paul Bossyns, representing Enabel (the Belgian Development Agency), emphasized the lack of proper financing, in particular domestic financing, as the main obstacle to integrate rehabilitation in health and in development policies. Another challenge, in his opinion, lies in the broad scope of rehabilitation (it covers a wide range of therapeutic measures and is performed by many different professionals), which makes it difficult to identify the most needed actions and the most urgent steps.

The need for stronger collaboration amongst stakeholders featured prominently throughout the debate. Maddy Sterneberg, from Light For The World, stated that NGOs should work more closely with governmental authorities, with a view to foster ownership and share responsibilities.  Huib Cornielje, from Liliane Fonds, added that stronger partnerships should be sought with organisations of persons with disabilities, in particular towards leading joint advocacy in international fora.

Opportunities for better establishing the role of rehabilitation in development policies and programmes cannot ignore and should build on the importance of constantly moving the needle in terms of quality and methodology and the pivotal requirements to ensure the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities.


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