Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s an exciting opportunity to be in Bengaluru and give my support to Enable Makeathon. We have an exceptional opportunity of working with great partners in the field of disability innovation this year.  We look forward to seeing how these different stakeholders collaborate together to help the selected teams turn their ideas into reality. It seems nothing but natural to me that innovative thinking and creativity have to serve people who need it the most – the ones who have to live with disabilities.

ICRC is more than just a 150 year old organisation. Over the years, we have learnt to adapt to new situations and necessities and most importantly, we have learnt to innovate. Some of it has been “on the job” and some of it has been through processes such as the Enable Makeathon, which is running simultaneously in Bengaluru and London as I speak.

It’s important that innovation bridges gaps for persons with disabilities. The idea for the first Enable Makeathon in 2015 was to have an intensive programme that sets the focus on innovation with and by persons with disabilities. Its key components were needs assessment and a coalition of specialist partners leaning in to help find solutions. It culminated in five devices from over 180 designs. Among these are an adjustable sitting and standing support for children with cerebral palsy and a clip-on attachment for wheelchairs to make them usable outdoors.  These are now being clinically tested in hospitals in India (Christian Medical College and Indian Spinal Injuries Centre) for roll out, globally.

The journey this year has been exciting so far and has created  a space for persons with disabilities, innovators, entrepreneurs and humanitarian organisations to come together and work on creating solutions to challenges faced by those who need it the most. We have also entered into new partnerships, including the one with Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI) in the UK which is running the parallel event.

India has gained a reputation for frugal innovation, I am told one of the popular words in this multilingual country for this is “Jugaad”. With this, India’s talent, the enabling environment and the socio-economic atmosphere lends itself perfectly for creating, testing and exporting new solutions to the rest of the world. I also realise that I am in a city which has been at the centre of this innovation buzz and hence, was also the natural choice for the Makeathon.

I look forward to both the panel discussion and to meeting the innovators who have been shortlisted after intense discussions between persons with disabilities and other stakeholders. We rely on you today to provide us with some of the solutions that we hope to be able to use in the complex operational contexts that the ICRC works in. As a successful example of a country that harnesses innovation, India can help other countries take upon similar innovation projects.

The Enable Makeathon’s core principle is “listening to needs” and inclusivity of persons with disabilities in the co-creation of the solutions.  I look forward to indeed “listening” to the discussions on this theme.  Let’s take this opportunity to see how we can engage and sustain the dialogue on humanitarian innovation with a diversity of actors in the field.

I thank you all for your support through your presence here this afternoon.