This move, effective since the beginning of 2020, aims to strengthen the ICRC’s capacity to meet the growing needs of people with disabilities in the most vulnerable contexts.

As announced late last year with the publication of its mid-term report, all of MoveAbility’s activities were integrated into the ICRC’s Physical Rehabilitation Programme (PRP).

The recent development of the ICRC 2030 disability vision has highlighted the need for the ICRC to strengthen its service delivery, incorporate elements of accessibility into ICRC programming, include persons with disability into the ICRC’s workforce, and develop a stronger influencing and policy role in relation to various countries where we work.

In order to do that, this integration represents an opportunity for the ICRC to develop a comprehensive and more effective approach to delivering services that positively impact the lives of people with disabilities. The goal is to combine the expertise and strengths of both the ICRC and MoveAbility teams to deliver improved and increased physical rehabilitation services and to advance ICRC’s commitments in the field of disability and inclusion.

The transition to the new set-up approach comprises three stages. The integration phase, focusing on integrating administrative, financial and operational activities ran until the end of 2019. The stabilization, aiming to consolidate and normalise the collaboration between MoveAbility and ICRC staff, as well as develop a comprehensive strategy to realise the ICRC’s 2030 disability vision, will run until end of June 2020. The strategic development phase, expected to run from June 2020 and beyond, will entail the implementation of the new strategy to achieve the ICRC’s vision 2030 on disability.

To find out more about this change and look back to the achievements and challenges of MoveAbility, Red Pulse spoke to Prof. Dr. Jürg Kesselring, Chairman of MoveAbility Foundation and member of the ICRC Assemby.

What are the reasons behind this decision?

In 1983 the Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD) was created to respond to a very specific need and to complement the work done by the ICRC. Its mission was to ensure the continuity of former ICRC physical rehabilitation programmes.

In 2001, the SFD became independent, allowing it to operate in other contexts and be more flexible in its approach to helping people with disabilities. A Board, composed of experts on disability issues and representatives from the Movement of Red Cross/Crescent Society was created with the aim of encouraging a strategic shift from humanitarian assistance to development. It started to fund its activities independently through a yearly appeal and to expand its activities and programmes.

With the evolution and changing interests in the field of disability, MoveAbility’s small size was both a strength and a weakness. It was an agile organisation able to adapt to new conditions and develop new methodologies, but its lack of size also made fundraising and business growth more challenging.

In order to ensure the continuation of MoveAbility’s activities and sustain its impact on people with disabilities, our Board, in conjunction with the ICRC, decided to integrate its activities with those of the ICRC’s Physical Rehabilitation Programme (PRP).

I am convinced that this integration will contribute to the ICRC’s development of a wider approach to disability and so strengthen its capacity to help people with disabilities.

What are the implications of this new setup for our MoveAbility and PRP colleagues?

The integrated team will work to realise the ICRC’s new 2030 vision on disability. I believe that incorporating the expertise, knowledge, and methodologies of the two organisations is necessary to ensure the ICRC’s leadership is sustained in this vital area.

Our activities must encompass all dimensions of disability, and MoveAbility’s system-centered approach is an important addition to the PRP’s more people-centred one. The expertise and partnerships developed by MoveAbility in the field and at the international level will be sustained and its best practices transferred as a direct result of the integration.

A development plan for the new strategy is underway to develop an aspirational strategy for the newly integrated PRP/MoveAbility programme that addresses the strategic requirements of the ICRC’s long-term approach to serving people with disabilities.

What are some of the accomplishments that you are most proud of when you think about MoveAbility?

Plain numbers and statistics can never fully describe the results achieved by MoveAbility staff over the years. Care, compassion and dedication cannot be quantified in such a manner. Nevertheless, since its creation in 1983, the SFD and later MoveAbility, has provided access to physical rehabilitation services and assistive devices to more than 800’000 people with disabilities in over 50 countries.

MoveAbility’s expertise is to develop and transform rehabilitation systems so that they become efficient and functional. Its projects are developed and implemented in partnership with the relevant authorities and with local physical rehabilitation stakeholders. This way of working has resulted in MoveAbility developing a high degree of operational expertise in low- and middle-income countries, and an approach focused on delivering long-term sustainable projects.

As a result of MoveAbility’s systemic approach, it was able to enter into numerous cooperation agreements with Ministries and partners in the countries resulting in significantly improved and sustainable physical rehabilitation services.

What are some of the main challenges you faced?

MoveAbility’s small size has been a huge advantage in terms of operational flexibility, but it has also been an issue in terms of fundraising and growth. The business model adopted by our board was very ambitious in terms of growth and development, however, despite the growing needs of people with disabilities our small size was an obstacle for many potential donors.

I believe that the integration of MoveAbility into the ICRC will present new funding opportunities for the ICRC’s work for people with disabilities

What do you hope the newly integrated PRP and MoveAbility will achieve?

For me it is clear that once the integration is completed by mid-2020, the ICRC will be in a better position to:

  1. effectively navigate the “nexus” between humanitarian service delivery and systems strengthening/development;
  2. advocate more effectively for access to services and the social inclusion of people of disability within national health organisations;
  3. strengthen the management systems of local organisations;
  4. influence the development of assistive technology.

We will have a comprehensive, forward-looking strategy aimed specifically at delivering a wider, more sustainable set of services to people with disabilities in many of the most conflict affected or economically deprived regions in the world.

As told to Achille Deprés, ICRC