Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) World Congress 2016

Posted: 3 October 2016

Disabled People’s Association (DPA) attended the second CBR World Congress, which was held on 27th – 29th September 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The theme for the 2nd World Congress was “CBR: Empowering and Enabling”.

Community-based rehabilitation (CBR) was initiated by the World Health Organisation as a strategy to increase access to rehabilitation services in resource-constrained settings such as rural areas and/or developing countries. Over the years the concept of CBR has expanded to become a much wider approach that has moved beyond rehabilitation alone. These days, CBR initiatives aim at improving access to opportunities and social inclusion of people with disabilities. CBR is now sometimes called Community-based Inclusive Development (CBID) because of this change in the approach.

CBR is also a very interesting approach because it is implemented through the combined efforts of people with disabilities, their families and communities, and relevant government and non-government health, education, vocational, social and other services. CBR or CBID initiatives are grass-root or bottom up programmes that actively involve the community in which they are taking place. In this sense CBR or CBID can be said to be owned and mobilised by local communities with support from a number of other stakeholders.  

CBR or CBID ties in well to the United Nations Convention Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in that it empowers persons with disabilities and respects their autonomy. CBR or CBID advocates that people in local communities understand their own circumstances best.

DPA attended the CBR World Congress because it was a platform for DPA to learn from best practices overseas. The Congress was an opportunity for CBR or CBID professionals from diverse communities of practice, policy, education, research and social development to engage in a dialogue to promote the well-being of persons with disability around the world.

DPA believes that the disability community in Singapore can benefit from CBR or CBID initiatives even though that approach is not usually associated with developed countries or urban environments. Yet, CBR or CBID actively involves and nurtures advocates within the disability community and this is an area in which Singapore could do more. We need to support persons with disabilities and help to increase their confidence in getting involved in disability initiatives and policies. In addition, in Singapore disability policies are usually done in a top down approach and we can learn more form CBR or CBID initiatives in that they look at what the community needs and is already doing to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Inclusion or disability related projects are much more likely to be impactful and sustainable when persons with disabilities and their wider support network are involved in and champion those efforts.

DPA believes that it has a lot to learn from the CBR or CBID approach and will look to see how it can integrate it into our future projects.

Whilst at the CBR World Congress, DPA met with other CBR or CBID stakeholders from the ASEAN region on 26 September 2016. The meeting was held to discuss how we can move forward to create an ASEAN CBR Network. There were 18 Representatives from CBR Networks of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand who attend this forum. During the meeting it was agreed that members of this ASEAN CBR Network will start to work together by building the capacity of member countries. The first planned activity will be conducted in March 2017 in Malaysia and it will be a workshop on BRIDGE, which is a training on implementing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and CRPD. DPA is looking forward to attending this training and collaborating more closely with its regional partners.