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Inclusive Education Initiative - launch

Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein's remarks at the launch of Inclusive Education Initiative at the World Bank's spring meeting.

It is high time that we recognize that without the inclusion of all people we shall not reach the SDGs and the full potential of sustainable development. This is an economic fact, and a moral obligation. I am therefore excited and grateful to be part of a united effort to include children with disabilities in SDG4 on quality education for all. To me this is a key priority, and Norway will continue to step up our efforts to make this happen.

We have promised to “Leave no one behind”. The Inclusive Education Initiative is one contribution to make this promise come true.

There are around 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. 800 live in developing countries. According to estimates, more than half of the children with disabilities in low-income and lower-middle-income countries do not go to school at all. Those who do go to school often face stigma, inaccessible infrastructure and school textbooks and materials that they are unable to use. Just imagine what loss this represents for societies. And what it means for millions of girls and boys that never get the chance to realise their potential and create a future for themselves.

Many children with disabilities are not registered at birth. This in turn prevents them from receiving key services and assistance from the government. Many are not screened for disabilities. Lack of data is a challenge and an important focus area for this initiative. Only with facts and knowledge can we design efficient responses on the ground.

At the individual level, this means that we are failing to provide children with disabilities with the assistive devices and school materials they need for effective learning. At the systems level, it means we are failing to allocate sufficient resources to ensure that these children are included.

This is a great concern for me, and the Norwegian Government. Norway is therefore stepping up its efforts to strengthen disability inclusion and to deliver on the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda.

We have identified some priority areas for our efforts. Number one is inclusive education. In addition, we will give particular attentions to women and girls, the situation for persons with disabilities in humanitarian crises, access to health and support to inclusion in sports and other cultural activities, efficient use of technology and digitalisation, and improve data collection.

Just a few weeks ago, we pledged to provide an additional 100 million kroner this year on disability inclusion. These funds will be channelled through civil society organisations. If we shall be successful in leaving no one behind, I believe that we must form strong partnerships with civil society and support their work.

By stepping up inclusion efforts in three select countries through the Inclusive Education Initiative, we aim to show that committed investments and political will can increase inclusion, not just of children with disabilities, but also of all learners. This in turn could lead to significant economic dividends for the countries concerned.

Another reason for investing in the Inclusive Education Initiative is to foster closer cooperation and coordination between education actors. Organisations must intensify their efforts on disability inclusion, and do so in partnerships and across sectors.

The Inclusive Education Initiative is one piece in a larger puzzle. The normative framework provided by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities continues to serve as a key tool for inclusion and efforts to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. We also made strong commitments at last year’s Global Disability Summit in London.

A common feature of the Convention and how we work together in efforts like this initiative is  partnership between governments, multilateral institutions and civil society at all levels. I believe these partnerships are key to deliver on the promise of leaving no one behind in a credible, effective and inclusive way. Together we will succeed.

Securing the rights of people with disabilities is not only paramount for reaching the SDGs. It is also a test of our will and ability to uphold a fundamental principle of human rights, namely, that all human beings are of equal value, regardless of our abilities.

Thank you.

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