Europe has declared 2010 to be the year against poverty and social exclusion. It is a good occasion to look at the European policy towards a group that knows only too well what poverty and social exclusion mean: people in developing countries living with a disability. Does European development aid reach people like Lila Maya in Nepal, who became blind as a baby and was isolated and mistreated until a local NGO helped her set up her business? Or Ricardo in Mozambique, who never went to school because of his paralyzed legs?
really benefit from European aid, more steps need to be taken.
- Ratify: More countries should ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This will show their real commitment and helps to make sure that we will come from good intentions to realization of rights. The EU should urge those member states that have not done so yet, to ratify the Convention as soon as possible. Together, the European countries can encourage other countries to ratify and of course to implement the Convention.
- Plan: The start of implementation is developing a good plan. A quick scan of relevant EU policy documents on disability and development does not give much hope. The Commission Work Programme 2010 refers to disability only once, in an annex and not in relation to development. The General development framework, makes no mention of disability at all. The Guidance Note on Disability and Development, published in 2004 by the European Commission provides a number of useful principles, but apparently these are not put into practice. A good sign is that the Directorate General Development is considering to add disability to the list of ‘cross cutting’ issues. Recognizing disability as a cross cutting theme will help to ensure that attention will be paid to disability in all development activities: ‘mainstreaming’ disability. Already, the EU requires applicants of development grants to explain how the grant will benefit people with a disability. Besides mainstreaming disability in development activities, the EU will need to facilitate disability-specific services and support for disabled persons to empower themselves and to get access to mainstream services.
- Learn: Developing such a plan is not easy. Implementing it will be even more challenging. Mainstreaming disability is a new concept and there are no studies yet that prove which strategies are successful. A lot can be learned from the experiences regarding gender and development. It is also important to do research regarding disability and development. Lessons should be drawn from good and bad experiences, to improve future policies.
- Measure. To know if efforts are effectively reaching people with a disability, it is important to collect data before, during and after interventions. How many people with a disability are living in the project area? Which disabilities do they have and how does this affect their ability to benefit from development efforts? Targets will need to be set on how many people with a disability will be reached by a certain effort. In most cases, the required data will be unavailable. People with a disability are not counted and therefore cannot be accounted for. Starting to collect these data will make them visible. This will require ‘disaggregation’ of data: asking projects to report on how many of the people they are people with a disability, just as they are often required to do regarding women and youth.
- Involve. Last but certainly not least, people with a disability should be involved in all the above. ‘Nothing about us without us’ is the adagio of the disability movement.
Published by: Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) -Saskia Bakker