Announcement Archive

Disability and Development Seminar Series Launched on December 3, International Day of Persons

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

story from Tokyo Development Learning Center

The Disability and Development Seminar Series kicked off with its first session on December 3, 2013.

The session “Mental Well-being, Disability, and Development” organized jointly by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), United Nations University International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), and the World Bank Tokyo Development Learning Center (WB TDLC) featured a panel discussion on mental well-being within the context of disability and development. The discussion took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, in observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Senior Knowledge Management Officer Dr. Takashi Izutsu from WB TDLC moderated the panel from New York and the discussion was webcast live.

The discourse on disability and its mainstreaming in development has been gaining more momentum and focus in recent years; the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adopted by the U.N. in 1982, 1993, and 2006 respectively have been serving as key global instruments in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities in society and development. The World Report on Disability was published by the World Health Organization and the World Bank in 2011, and the outcome document of the UN High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Disability and Development held in September 2013 paved the way to translate the international commitment to disability-inclusive society and development in to concrete action and changes on the ground and to mainstream disability in to global agenda in a post-2015 development framework.

Mental and intellectual disabilities are highly neglected areas within existing development framework, despite its pervasiveness and high relevance to individuals. Mental well-being affects all—with or without disability and one in four people in the world will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Depression is the largest single cause of disability worldwide and it is also one of the major causes of suicide, which approximately results in one million deaths annually, a figure higher than that of deaths related to war and murder combined. Suicide is the third highest cause of death among individuals aged 15 to 34, and is the leading cause of death in young women. Human beings are emotional beings. We experience fear, insecurity, anger, and joy. Emotions play a role in our decision-making and behaviors, but the psychological aspects of human beings have rarely gained the attention and focus in discussions among the international community.

In April 2013, the UNU-IIGH and UNDESA in close collaboration with the University of Tokyo organized the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Mental Well-being, Disability and Development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The meeting produced conclusions and recommendations urging that “(1)mental well-being should be integrated in to all the social development efforts as a key indicator for sustainable development and that (2) the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with mental or intellectual disabilities should be integrated and strengthened as a key priority in disability discourse.”

Based on these recommendations, the panel discussion on Mental Well-being, Disability and Development was organized and held in New York on December 3, 2013.

The discussion kicked off with a message from Ms. Akiko Ito, Chief of the Secretariat for the CRPD, Division for Social Policy and Development, UNDESA.
The first panelist, Professor Judy Bass of Applied Mental Health Research Group (AMHR), Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) presented on the links between mental well-being and development priorities such as maternal health. Dr. Atsuro Tsutsumi of UNU-IIGH presented the statistics and research findings related to mental well-being from around the world. Presentations by Deputy Permanent Representatives from Permanent Missions of Bangladesh and El Salvador, each presenting a unique view point and best practices from their respective country followed. The last panelist, Dr. Paul Bolton from the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response, Department of International Health, JHSPH shared with the audience positive findings from the field.

The discussion reinforced the significance of acknowledging the mental well-being, emotional, psychological or mind aspects of human beings in to the disability and development discourse. The panelists urged that mental well-being should be included as an indicator of sustainable development, humanitarian response, disaster risk management, as well as for promotion and advancement of human rights in international, state, and community-level activities.  In particular, persons with mental or intellectual disabilities face stigma and often experience human rights violations such as deprivation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and reproductive rights. They are particularly vulnerable to severe human rights violations including starvation, imprisonment, neglect, and forced sterilization. Throughout the discussion, promotion and protection of the rights of persons with mental or intellectual disabilities was emphasized.

As a global leading stakeholder in the field of mental well-being and development, the World Bank Tokyo Development Learning Center aims to create further learning opportunities for policy makers in Asia Pacific region. The next session in the series will focus on the outcome of the UN High-level Meeting on Disability and Development.