This disability activist says we must offer dignity and financial inclusion rather than just braille and ramps

Credit: Unsplash

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • It’s time to boost the economic resilience and participation of people across the developing world – particularly people living with disabilities.
  • The benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution aren’t being experienced universally.
  • It’s time to seize the chance to put humanity on an entirely new trajectory.

Diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two and given only five years to live, Edward Ndopu has gone on to become an award-winning disabilities advocate who’s got the ear of the UN secretary-general. As part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit, Ndopu shares the issues that keep him up at night and the importance of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals in ways that benefit the most vulnerable.

You can hear more from Edward Ndopu, and other leading global figures, on the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset Podcast.

1. What do the UN Goals – taken together with the sustainable agenda more broadly – mean to you, personally?

I am a young person from the continent of Africa. I’m a person of colour. I’m a person with a disability. So to me, the goals are a blueprint for creating a world where I’m able to see myself reflected.

I think the goals offer humanity a pathway for making sure that all voices are equal. And I think we have a unique window of opportunity right now to bridge the gap between international development and social justice.

2. What are some of the challenges in advancing that agenda, and helping marginalized and vulnerable communities?

Right now there are various estimates that say between 200 and 500 million people could be plunged into extreme poverty as a result of the global pandemic. We need to think about why their situation is already precarious and what has made them so vulnerable.

And so I think we have an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and go beyond what I call the zero mentality – this idea that the minimum threshold is good enough. Because ultimately that doesn’t provide the kind of resilience the most vulnerable and marginalized communities need in order to live a life of dignity.

I think a second point is that we cannot underestimate the importance of representation, especially when it comes to how the planet is being shaped. We need to ensure that the people in those rooms look like the communities they represent and are advocating on behalf of.

3. What are some of the unique solutions that you’re working on to advance policies that are more holistic in nature?

So, I have launched a not-for-profit organization called Beyond Zero. I work with leaders, both in the public and the private sector to help them identify ways that they can increase and raise that income threshold.

I’ll give you a practical example. My constituencies are mostly people living with disabilities. So when I sit down with a Fortune 500 company or with a head of state, what I am saying to them is that we need to go beyond compliance. We need to go beyond just the ramp, beyond braille, beyond sign language, to really think about access that goes beyond the built environment and into economic participation. Where disabled people feel as though they are productive, valuable members of society.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

4. What keeps you up at night in terms of trying to make progress on all of this?

What keeps me up at night? Well, I think it’s the fear that people are already being left behind. At the United Nations we have a mantra – you leave nobody behind. But I think if we are honest with ourselves, there are so many people that have already been left behind.

And that could have been me. I have a Master’s from Oxford, but I’m always deeply aware that 90% of children with disabilities across the developing world have never even seen the inside of a classroom. That is quite jarring.

On the one hand, we have tremendous technological progress in the form of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yet on the other hand there is immense deprivation, immense inequality, immense poverty. These two things exist side-by-side in the world we live in. And so I am really animated by the deep desire to bridge these gaps.

5. With UN Week coming up in conjunction with our Sustainable Development Impact Summit, what do you hope leaders will be addressing and discussing?

This is a sobering moment, an opportunity for leaders to take stock of our collective failure to really make the world better for people who don’t see themselves reflected in it.

It is my profound hope that leaders meeting on the occasion of this 75th anniversary of the UN will think about the goals, not just as a milestone to be reached but as a turning point. It’s a chance to put humanity on an entirely new trajectory that is in service of everyone.

I’m not sure how many chances we have left, to be able to do that. It’s sort of now or never.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Migration crisis will keep deteriorating as common EU political will is simply not there

As Libya talks resume in Geneva, UN negotiator seeks to overcome sticking points

COP21 Breaking News_12 December: 195 countries adopt the First Universal Climate Agreement

IMF: Sorry Greece, Ireland, Portugal we were wrong!

Google succumbs unconditionally to EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling

Weak growth of G20 international merchandise trade in third quarter of 2018

Livelihoods of millions in East and Southeast Asia at risk from Swine Fever epidemic

EU seeks foreign support on 5G from Mobile World Congress 2015 as the “digital gold rush” begins

Impact Investment needs global standards and better measurement

Restore land to save the planet, boost the economy, says head of UN body combating desertification

Mergers: Commission clears Vodafone’s acquisition of Liberty Global’s cable business in Czechia, Germany, Hungary and Romania, subject to conditions

‘Everyone must be on board’ for peace in Central African Republic: UN’s Lacroix

UN committed to helping Haiti build better future, says Guterres, marking 10-year anniversary of devastating earthquake

Gender equality: an issue much talked about but less acted upon

From philanthropy to profit: how clean energy is kickstarting sustainable development in East Africa

Entrepreneurship’s key to success showcased by a serial young entrepreneur

Project Manager – 2024

This simple digital solution could streamline global travel and boost trade during COVID – here’s how

European Citizens’ Initiative: A game of much publicity and one big lie

The eyes of Brazil and the world turn to the largest rainforest and largest biodiversity reserve on Earth #PrayForAmazonia.

The US and EU decisively oppose Erdogan’s plans for Turkey and beyond

This US city sends mental health workers instead of police to non-criminal emergency calls

INTERVIEW: ‘Defend the people, not the States’, says outgoing UN human rights chief

These are the top countries for travel and tourism in 2019

The smartest cyber investment is collective action. Here’s why

US and China in painstaking efforts to conclude trade talks

Digital was our lifeline in 2020, and we are more positive about it since

‘Don’t forget Madagascar’s children’, UN appeals for long-term help as emergency worsens

The US Congress and European Parliament vote are TTIP’s 10th round’s lucky cards

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Diplomacy for Peace Day, #VaccinesWork, the cost of war on Afghans, tech and well-being

Climate change hits the poor hardest. Mozambique’s cyclones prove it

EU commits €9 million in humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable families in Myanmar

Republic of Korea President proposes DMZ as future ‘peace and cooperation district’ on Peninsula

UN leads bid for cheaper insulin, expanding access for diabetics worldwide

Europe’s dirty air kills 400,000 people every year

Commission’s report shows that targeted investment and robust digital policies boost Member States’ performance

The gender gap of medicine in 2018

Telemedicine during the pandemic: its benefits and limitations

Telemedicine can be a COVID-19 game-changer. Here’s how

Trade MEPs promise thorough scrutiny of the EU-UK agreement

Visa liberalisation: Commission reports on fulfilment of visa-free requirements by Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries

Tomorrow’s UK general election: Will Tories win majority to shoot an abrupt Brexit or a hung parliament will prolong January’s exit to 2050?

This man ran across the USA to raise awareness of plastic pollution

5 ways to fast-track the transition to a carbon neutral world

Don’t let smoking steal life’s breathtaking moments, urges UN health agency

Security Council marks transition from 15 years of UN peacekeeping in Haiti

Latest leaked TTIP document confirms EU sovereignty may be under threat

Safer roads: More life-saving technology to be mandatory in vehicles

Monday’s Daily Brief: ‘Horror’ at Notre Dame fire disaster, Yemen still bleeding, measles now ‘global crisis’

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 4 January

Somalia advancing towards ‘inclusive and peaceful future’ for women, deputy UN chief

Can Obama attract Iran close to the US sphere of influence?

Egypt is building one of the world’s largest solar parks

These are the cities with the biggest carbon footprints

Entrepreneurial leadership: what does it take to become a leader?

From low-earth orbit, ‘envoys’ of humanity join UN space forum

COP21 Breaking News_10 December: the final sprint of the Final Agreement Negotiations

How studying genetics and lifestyle can shape a healthier MENA region

Zero carbon by 2050 is possible. Here is what we need to do

Myanmar military target civilians in deadly helicopter attack, UN rights office issues war crimes warning

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s