India will be hosting the first Community Based Rehabilitation World Congress in Agra next week, which will promote equality, well-being and dignity of people with disabilities

India will host the First Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) World Congress – the first ever global meeting on community-based rehabilitation for differently-abled persons. The three-day event will be held at Agra from November 26 and hopes to adopt a global strategy on CBR and establish a global CBR network.  

Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) is the strategy and promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for a cross-sectoral, human right-based approach to inclusive development. This approach for community development is targeting and involving people with disabilities, their families and their organisations as primary stakeholders. It seeks to ensure that all individuals are supported in their own communities, enjoy equal rights and opportunities as other members in the society. The experience of CBR can provide practical lessons learned and methods to wider development community.

Being the 1st CBR World Congress, the response has been overwhelming. Around 1,200 delegates from more than 85 countries are participating in the Congress. The global meet will be an opportunity for participants to understand the current trends in CBR, share the rich experiences, challenges faced, achievements to influence the future and make new acquaintances for a better world for all, including for persons with disabilities and their families and communities.

“The World Congress will promote CBR as an effective strategy to reduce poverty and enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families, and to ensure that the benefits of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reach to the majority of the world’s people with disabilities,’’ says Poonam Natarajan, chairperson, National Trust and organising president of the World Congress.

The theme of the World Congress is “Community Based Rehabilitation: The Key to Realising Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilties” and the agenda includes Community Based Rehabilitation and Convention on Rights of the People with Disabilities, CBR and Millennium Development Goals, extending the reach of CBR, human rights and development and inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities.

The global meeting hopes to come up with a common understanding of CBR and its future direction, documentation of CBR good practices in respect of mainstreaming disability in development and realising CRPD, and increased multi-sectoral involvement in CBR.

The WHO launched new CBR guidelines at the 4 CBR Africa Congress in Abuja in 2010. However, even before this, the First Asia-Pacific CBR Congress was organised in Bangkok in February 2009. This was a joint initiative of the UN agencies, government and civil society organisation which brought together people from diverse groups involved in CBR and experts from the field, who had an opportunity for sharing and learning. As an offshoot of this Congress, CBR Networks were formed in various countries under the umbrella of Asia-Pacific Network.

There are many organisations in India that have taken up the cause of the poor and marginalised persons with disabilities in the past decades and, over the years, the understanding about disability and CBR has also evolved considerably in India. Knowledge, experience and expertise were available though scattered.  The purpose of CBR India Network is to promote community based rehabilitation as a strategy fostering equality, well-being and dignity of people with disabilities and their families. It aims to make significant contribution to redressing the profound social and economic disadvantage of persons with disabilities and promote their participation in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres with equal opportunities, in both rural and urban areas. The members of the India Network comprise of national CBR practitioners, organisations and it is supported by international agencies.