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Summary of Activities During 2015

The International Governance Initiative of the Order of St Lazarus which has been led since its inception by Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas is as needed today as it was when first established over 25 years ago. It has been estimated that as much as a half of the EU’s annual development aid, or some £11.5 billion, is wasted. 2015 was a busy year for the initiative with activities under way in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Contributions were made to twenty conferences, congresses,  conventions, courses and summits in various locations, including Barcelona, Bengaluru, Colombo, Dubai, Mumbai, New Delhi and Singapore. Three contributions were made to a programme for politicians and public sector leaders from Nigeria. Published outputs included five book chapters, theme papers for various international events and over 60 articles.

Particular emphasis was placed upon activities relating to inclusion, particularly of those afflicted with leprosy and skill development, especially for those with disabilities. The political, social, economic and physical exclusion experienced by those afflicted with leprosy was highlighted in a theme paper and book chapter for an international conference organised by the Institute of Directors (India) and subsequent talks and publications. In recent years over a half of the world’s newly disclosed cases of leprosy have occurred in India, where those afflicted face legal discrimination and the risk of disability. Every four minutes someone from India gets diagnosed with leprosy. Rejected by their families once their symptoms are visible, or their condition is otherwise revealed, they seek shelter in leper colonies and centres supported by organisations such as The Leprosy Mission and the Order of St Lazarus.

Although in practical terms some of the disabilities it causes may be irreversible, leprosy is a curable disease. It can also be rendered non-infectious at an early stage of treatment and could be eliminated. The initiative’s contributions have suggested the use of CSR budgets to help achieve this or to develop specific applications to help those afflicted. In Sri Lanka there is still a ‘Leper’s Ordinance’ on the statute books that calls for segregation. In both India and Sri Lanka progress needs to be made in the implementation of the UN Principles and Guidelines for the Elimination of Discrimination Against People Affected by Leprosy (EDPAL) and their Family Members.

A 2015 report of the Law Commission of India called for action and an EDPAL Bill to repeal discriminatory legislation, abolish the term ‘leper’ and enshrine in law the rights of people affected by leprosy went to the Lok Sabha in July 2015. It has been suggested by Prof. Coulson-Thomas  that organisations genuinely concerned with exclusion could lobby for the speeding up of its progress and that with greater collaboration and focus the impact of leprosy could be greatly reduced.

The Order’s international governance initiative continues to push for action to improve standards, address issues such as fraud, favouratism, nepotism and corruption. In relation to corporate and public governance it continues to put the case for removing discrimination against those with disabilities and developing their skills. It is also supporting plans to increase inclusion in the creative arts and sport and develop more imaginative and innovative solutions to various challenges, particularly in Africa, South America and India.

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