Disabled Peoples’ Organisations Denmark (D.P.O.D.) is an umbrella organisation established in 1934 by four organisations of persons with disability representing blind, deaf, deafblind and physically disabled. Over the years, D.P.O.D. has been supporting the disability movement not only in Denmark but also in developing nations. They have been strong advocates of a rights based approach towards disability and for inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of life. Peter Rothe Schultz of D.P.O.D. is currently in India. D.N.I.S. caught up with him to learn more about their work.
D.N.I.S.: Tell us something about D.P.O.D.
Peter Schultz: D.P.O.D. is an interest organisation advocating and lobbying for the inclusion of P.W.D.s in all areas of life, particularly in Denmark. The work is rights based taking its point of departure in the newly approved U.N. Convention. In the day to day work, D.P.O.D. is in regular contact with Danish ministries, comments upon new laws and regulations and provides position papers with the perspective of P.W.D.s in relation to most major adjustments of existing legal framework.
This includes regular written input to the main sectors and ministries of Denmark, input produced with the help of 4 standing committees covering the social sector – including employment, education, accessibility and health. Moreover D.P.O.D. is actively taking part in more than 2000 national and local councils and working groups in Denmark, the National Disability Council and since 1995, the European Disability Forum (E.D.F.) where coordinated influence on European issues is the main objective. D.P.O.D. has a national secretariat with approximately 40 employees.
The most important decision-making body of the organisation is the annual general meeting. The highest body in D.P.O.D. is the national board. It is composed of two representatives from each member organisation and one from each of the five regions, representing the local branches. The national board elects an executive committee with seven members (one chairman, one vice chairman and five board members). The Executive Board appoints a number of P.W.D.s or relatives from member organisations for the standing committees. Day to day activities are managed and directed by an Executive Director. D.P.O.D. has a department for overseas development.
D.P.O.D. has 32 member organisations representing more than 320,000 persons with disability (P.W.D.s) and their relatives. D.P.O.D. has branches in 90 Danish municipalities.
D.N.I.S.: What are the kind of projects that D.P.O.D. is involved with?
Peter Schultz: Below are some examples of areas/cases where the work of D.P.O.D. has been essential:
D.N.I.S.: Tell us about your projects in developing countries.
Peter Schultz: D.P.O.D.’s engagement in global development rests on the same approach as national advocacy and lobbying and aims at improving the lives of P.W.D.s in developing countries through inclusion in all areas of life. D.P.O.D. believes that P.W.D.s play a special role in all development having huge resources and have a fundamental right to a decent life. For this reason they must be included as actors and given responsibility in development of civil societies. D.P.O.D. pursues the goal through support to organisations of P.W.D.s working for fulfillment of social, economical, political and cultural rights of P.W.D.s.
D.P.O.D. has been engaged in development projects and project management for about 14 years. We are active in eight countries - India, Nepal, Vietnam, Philippines, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa.
D.P.O.D. has a long experience with advocacy and capacity building of disabled people’s organisations (D.P.O.s) and rights organisations, as well as with official bodies, governments and local authorities, aiming at improving the rights of P.W.D.s. Being an organisation of persons with disability, D.P.O.D. knows very well what it means to be an advocacy organisation.
D.N.I.S.: D.P.O.D. has recently got together with N.C.P.E.D.P. for a project. Can you elaborate on it for our readers?
Peter Schultz: D.P.O.D. and N.C.P.E.D.P. have collaborated since 1996-97. Throughout the partnership, D.P.O.D. and N.C.P.E.D.P. have been in touch and have been sharing information with each other on issues of common interest. The idea for this project has matured since the adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Both, D.P.O.D. and N.C.P.E.D.P. have been lobbying for the ratification of the Convention in their respective countries. With the slow implementation of the Convention in India, the idea for this project focusing on the implementation and domestification slowly developed and with the forthcoming census in India, the concept further matured.
D.N.I.S.: How do you envision U.N.C.R.P.D. changing the lives of disabled people across the globe, specially in developing countries?
Peter Schultz: The Convention marks a "paradigm shift" in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It has changed society from viewing persons with disabilities as "objects" of charity and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as "subjects" with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives as well as being active members of society.
The Convention has got disability on the agenda internationally but also nationally in different countries. With the Convention, disability movements are better positioned to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities and to lobby governments to address the needs of persons with disabilities.
D.N.I.S.: How do you see the role of D.P.O.s in developing countries such as India?
Peter Schultz: D.P.O.s play a central role in lobby and advocacy work for the implementation of U.N.C.R.P.D. D.P.O.s represent persons with disabilities and are able to put forward the real needs and challenges experienced by persons with disabilities in their daily life. Advocacy for disability rights should be designed and executed under the leadership of D.P.O.s, based on the principle “Nothing about us without us”.
D.N.I.S.: Is this your first trip to India? What are you looking forward to seeing here?
Peter Schultz: No. I have been to India several times before! But those trips were as a tourist and were back in the mid-90s. I am very much looking forward to meeting N.C.P.E.D.P. and get a better understanding of the disability movement and the situation of persons with disabilities in India. Moreover, I am looking forward to see the modern India of today and see what has changed in the last ten or fifteen years.