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Press Release from WBU for World Sight Day 2015

​Toronto, Octob​er 8, 2015

This September, the UN finalized a new set of development goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that will direct international development work and funding for the next 15 years. The SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000 and dominated international development for the last 15 years. The MD​Gs were limited in scope and ended up not having many positive effects on the lives of persons with disabilities. Fortunately, the post-2015 process has already proven to be more inclusive, with a high level of civil society input, including with the International Disability Alliance, the International Disability and Development Consortium and the World Blind Union, resulting in several direct references to persons with disabilities.

Civil society campaigned hard during the SDG negotiating process in favour of a requirement for data to effectively measure the impact of the SDGs on different groups, including persons with disabilities. We will continue to monitor this issue closely as it is vital for this data to be readily available in accessible formats, in order for it to be relevant to low vision and blind persons.

We have also worked hard to ensure that eye health is a part of measuring the success of the goals’ targets and indicators. Combating eye diseases will likely become more difficult over the next 15 years, as the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that eye disease will have doubled from 1990-2020. The burden of eye disease is highest in poorer countries, with 90% of all global cases of serious vision impairment occurring in the developing world.

People who are blind or have very low vision in poorer countries are far less likely to go to school (only 10% of them do), have gainful employment (90% are unemployed) and participate in society as a full and equal citizen. All of these factors lead many blind and low vision persons to live in poverty and social isolation. We are looking to the SDGs, and the global development community as a whole, to live up to their promises and help end this vicious cycle of poverty and isolation. In order for the SDGS to be a success and lead to positive outcomes for blind and partially sighted persons, they must include projects to prevent blindness, since 80% of all vision impairment could have been prevented, as well as work to bring increased attention to the links between disability and poor eye health, and poverty and isolation.

The World Blind Union is asking for all concerned parties, especially those in government and international development organizations, to work hard to implement the SDGs in a way that captures the robust and inclusive spirit in which they were drafted, and to no longer leave persons with disabilities out of the global development agenda.

We are also calling on governments and development organizations implementing the SDGs to ensure that they will include projects on the prevention of poor eye health, awareness raising initiatives on disability and eye health, and services that offer a continuum of care (including essential technological tools, equipment, resources, rehabilitation and medical services) to address the unique needs of those who live with low vision and blindness.

We must all work hard to take full advantage of this exceptional opportunity to establish a new global development framework that will begin decreasing the global burden of eye disease, and create real, tangible and positive outcomes for the lives of blind and partially sighted persons across the globe for the next 15 years of the SDGs.


The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf, and organizations that serve the blind in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment.

For further information, contact:

World Blind Union
Caitlin Reid​
Communications Coordinator