Disability has gained currency as a policy issue in the development discourse over the past decade. Recent legal and policy developments such as the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) have resulted in an increased recognition that disability is a development issue and that without accessible and inclusive development programmes, overall goals to reduce global poverty will not be achieved. The CRPD aside from having a specific article focusing on development cooperation (Article 32), is also described as having an explicit social dimension as the majority of its articles focus on barrier removal and positive measures.
A recently published report by the World Bank with support from the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs reviews where disability fits within current development policy. The report entitled ‘Disability and International Cooperation and Development: A review of Policies and Practices” examines recent policies of major multilateral and bilateral agencies, which they have employed to include disability in development aid.
While the review does not assess the merits or impacts of those policies, it provides a good overview or mapping of activity which is currently taking place on disability and development. The review however does indicate some emerging trends with regard to disability in development and these include;
- Disability has become a part of international cooperation and development aid. It was found that all reviewed agencies have included disability in either their policies and/or programmes. In most cases, it was found that this inclusion of disability was explicit and underpinned by relevant policy frameworks. In instances where specific disability policy framework is absent, disability is an integral part of the agencies implemented programmes.
- International cooperation policies often link disability to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).The MDGs were referenced in the majority of policies reviewed. Particularly MDG 1 (Eradicate hunger and extreme poverty) and MDG 2 (Universal Primary Education), there was a general recognition that these goals will not be achieved unless issues specific to poverty and access to education among persons with disabilities are adequately addressed.
- The policies and practices reviewed often combine several approaches to frame the inclusion of disability in development cooperation. Reviewing policies demonstrated that a human rights-based approach is increasingly being used in conjunction with other approaches such as poverty reduction for the inclusion of disability into international cooperation policies and programmes.
- With respect to implementation and practice, the prevailing trend is to incorporate disability-specific/ targeted and mainstreaming/ inclusion/ integration programs. Most of the surveyed agencies combine a number of approaches and instruments to include disability in development cooperation and aid. These approaches range from (a) disability specific programs targeting disabled people and their specific needs (b) disability-specific components that are added onto mainstream programs and (c) disabled people and their specific needs being addressed within mainstream programmes.
- Policies and programs are dynamic and have changed over time. The review examined policies and programs aimed at including disability in development aid over the last 15 years. It is still in its infancy the changes, which have happened, have been quite rapid and reflect international developments, which have culminated in the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
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