Skip to content

Disability and Development – Handicap International

January 22, 2017

Situation of disability in international cooperation

Article 32 of the Convention and its implications
Disability and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
Disability in bilateral and multilateral cooperation policies
United Nations initiatives on disability
The role of civil society in promoting inclusive international cooperation policies

To access the text from this chapter in a PowerPoint
Key messages

Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires States parties to ensure that all their actions within the framework of international cooperation, including development programmes, are inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.
Article 32 requires that no international cooperation action, including through development programmes, can discriminate on the ground of disability, nor can it contribute to the creation of new barriers for people with disabilities.
The Millennium Development Goals make no specific reference to disability; however, these goals can only be achieved if people with disabilities, who are among the poorest, are taken into account.
To enhance inclusion of disability issues in development actions, it is essential that donor States develop and enforce a disability policy within their department in charge of international cooperation.
Other stakeholders also play an important role in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention at the international level: at the United Nations level, the Inter-Agency Support Group on Disability has produced recommendations for its implementation by UN country teams, and the Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PRPD) has been established recently; at the level of civil society, International Disability Alliance (IDA) and International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) pay special attention to the effective implementation of article 32.

Article 32 of the Convention and its implications

As explained in the previous chapters of this cd-rom, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first that incorporates a stand-alone provision on international cooperation in a core human rights treaty. This article might be specific, but it is tied to and connected with the Convention’s provisions, reinforcing them.

Article 32 requires that each State Party to the Convention undertakes that its international cooperation activities or those of its national organizations comply with the terms of the Convention. Implicitly, any State Party to the Convention and a recipient of assistance under international cooperation must also ensure that aid does not create new forms of discrimination against disabled people living in its territory.
Key concepts of article 32:

Inclusive and accessible development: Article 32 enshrines the concept of inclusive development1: people with disabilities are to be included in all phases of development programmes: planning, design, implementation, evaluation, etc. Such programmes must therefore guarantee participation and accessibility to people with disabilities, on an equal basis with others.
Holistic understanding of cooperation: Article 32 is a clear departure from the notion that international cooperation be purely technical or economic, and highlights the following areas:
Facilitating and supporting capacity-building, including through the exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practices
Facilitating cooperation in research and access to scientific and technical knowledge
Providing, as appropriate, technical and economic assistance, including by facilitating access to and sharing of accessible and assistive technologies, and through the transfer of technologies.
‘Multidirectional’ understanding of cooperation: Article 32 is not confined to the historic geopolitical direction of international cooperation, but includes South-North, South-South, North-North and North-South cooperation. The article reiterates the importance of partnerships not only between states but also with international organizations, and regional and civil society, including DPOs.
Monitoring and evaluation: The implementation of article 32, as with other articles of the Convention, must be monitored and evaluated. It is essential that the national bodies responsible for monitoring the CRPD ensure that all aspects of international cooperation (from the perspective of the donor or recipient) are inclusive and accessible. This includes monitoring the percentage of aid dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities, their involvement in this monitoring, and also the effectiveness of aid in improving the lives of people with disabilities.

All provisions of the Convention are interlinked and reinforce each other mutually. Other provisions have a particular relevance in the framework of international cooperation:

Article 11 – covers situations of risk with an emphasis on humanitarian emergencies, a key area of international cooperation;
Article 28 (2) (b) – calls for ensuring access to social protection programmes and poverty reduction programmes for persons with disabilities, in particular women and girls with disabilities and older persons with disabilities, in the context of the right to health.

Disability and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

With the Millennium Declaration, the right to development is made universal. With the MDGs governments committed to “making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want”2.

However, disability is currently not included in indicators and targets set for the MDGs and people with disabilities are often excluded from international and national poverty reduction plans.

In 2004, the UN Secretary-General warned: “There is an urgent need to address the absence of more than 10 per cent of the world’s population in the implementation, review and evaluation of the Goals and their targets, evaluation mechanisms and indicators. The lack of a disability perspective is undermining the objective of the Goals, which is to measure human development benchmarks on the way to more inclusive and equitable global development”3.

Disability affects all eight of the MDGs, making it an issue central to the reduction of poverty4:

mdg 1

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Of the estimated one billion people with disabilities worldwide, 70% live in developing countries and, according to UN statistics, 82% live below the poverty line.

mdg 2

2. Achieve universal primary education
This is the only absolute goal and with 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries not in school, it will be impossible to achieve unless they are explicitly brought into the equation.

mdg 3

3. Promote gender equality and empower women
Women and girls with disabilities face a great deal of discrimination and disadvantage. The target of eliminating gender inequality in all levels of education by 2015 will not be reached without considering disability.

mdg 4

4. Reduce child mortality
Children with disabilities [can be] at higher risk of dying because of medical conditions, but also because of lack of access to public services, and intense stigma—even within their own homes (World Bank).

mdg 5

5. Improve maternal health
Up to 20 million women a year are affected by disabling impairments associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

mdg 6

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to these diseases, which are also a major cause of disabling impairments.

mdg 7

7. Ensure environmental sustainability
Environmental dangers can lead to the onset of many types of disabilities, and inaccessible environments prevent people with disabilities from taking part in economic and social activities. (World Bank) One of the indicators for this goal is the proportion of the population with improved water and sanitation, which needs to be accessible for people with disabilities.

mdg 8

8. Develop a global partnership for development
A partnership implies inclusion, which means everyone. Article 32 of the UN CRPD supports the aims and objectives of MDG 8, as it highlights the role of civil society and disabled people’s organizations in the promotion of inclusive development. It demands that people with disabilities are included in all phases of development cooperation, planning, implementation and evaluation.

What needs to happen5?

It is crucial for governments, donors, international agencies and civil society to address disability through the implementation of inclusive development strategies, in accordance with article 32. This means that:

Disability must be recognized as a cross-cutting issue within international development.
Accurate and reliable disability data must be collected in countries in order to monitor the actual inclusion of people with disabilities in international aid efforts and how international aid is improving their living conditions.
The participation of people with disabilities in development and MDG-related policy and decision-making processes must be ensured.
Most importantly, as the MDGs are coming to an end by 2015, it is essential to engage in preparatory steps to advocate a more inclusive post-MDG framework6.

Disability in bilateral and multilateral cooperation policies

In response to article 32 of the CRPD, some countries have developed policies to guide the inclusion of disability into their international cooperation activities. For these policies to be effective, the following factors need to be considered7:

Integrate a twin-track approach to inclusive development, i.e. ensuring both mainstreaming of disability in all development areas and specific initiatives to enable people with disabilities (compensating for their disadvantage) to participate on an equal basis with others;
Integrate disability both vertically and horizontally, i.e. disability needs to taken into account by the organization itself in its internal structures and processes, and in the programmes of the organization;
Ensure that it is appropriately resourced, for example, by allocating a percentage of each budget line to disability (the Indian government allocates 3%). A specific budget is also required for actions such as staff awareness sessions or reasonable accommodations when recruiting a staff with a disability.
Develop the policy in a participatory manner, consulting and involving people with disabilities and their representative organizations, and disseminate the policy in accessible formats;
Ensure monitoring and evaluation of the policy to measure progress and identify necessary adjustments to improve its impact.

To know more about how to implement these principles, please have a look at the following chapter on principles and tools on inclusive development.

Agencies of bilateral or multilateral cooperation that have developed their own guidance document or disability policy are:

Germany (2006)
Australia (2009)
Asian Bankf of Development (2005)
Denmark (2004)
United States (1997)
Finland (2003)
Italy (2010)
Japan (2009)
Norway (2002)
United-Kingdom (2000)
European Union (2004)
World Bank (2006)

United Nations initiatives on disability

As explained previously, the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons is operated by two agencies: the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which organizes the Conference of States Parties (New York) and the Human Rights Council (HRC), which hosts the meetings of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Geneva).

Besides these, there are several types of initiatives at the UN level:

The intergovernmental process through which resolutions are adopted (see resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission for Social Development, and Human Rights Council);
Initiatives by individual UN agencies (UNICEF, UNDP, ILO, etc) to include disability in their actions, in their respective areas of work—examples of initiatives taken by UN agencies are included under the “resources” section of this chapter;
The inter-agency coordination on disability issues, including the Inter-Agency Support Group on the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (IASG) and the recent Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PRPD).

The Inter-Agency Support Group on the CRPD (IASG): This group was created in September 2006. Composed of more than 27 agencies of the United Nations funds and programmes, it is responsible for promoting the principles of the Convention and improving the effectiveness of United Nations involvement on the issue of disability. It aims to ensure that development programmes, including policies, processes and mechanisms related to the Millennium Development Goals, are inclusive and accessible to disabled people.

Main outcomes: In October 2010 the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) endorsed a “Guidance note on integrating the rights of persons with disabilities in United Nations programming at the country level” for United Nations country teams. It explains how to mainstream disability in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), which serves as a coordinated action plan for the UN at country level.

The UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD): Six UN agencies (UNDP, OHCHR, UNICEF, WHO, ILO and UN DESA) have recently taken the decision to establish a Multi-Donor Trust Fund on the rights of persons with disabilities called the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD). The UNPRPD MDTF was launched on 8 December 2011, in New York.

Priorities of the UNPRPD8 include:

At country-level: national capacity development for the ratification and implementation of the CRPD; establishment or strengthening of mechanisms enhancing dialogue between States, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations and UN delegations; breaking statistical invisibility by supporting the production of relevant data on persons with disabilities and barriers to their full participation and inclusion; development and promotion of mechanisms to prevent development funds from creating or perpetuating barriers to participation and inclusion.
Thematic, global and regional support activities: research on thematic issues; technical, policy and legal advisory services; knowledge management, including collection and dissemination of good practices, production of training curricula, guidelines and tools; networking and exchange of experiences; promotion of the participation of people with disabilities.

The role of civil society in promoting inclusive international cooperation policies

At the level of civil society, many organizations are involved in advocacy work to advance the inclusion of disability in international cooperation policies. Organizations representing people with disabilities throughout the world are the main interlocutors promoting inclusive development. Effective partnerships and networking with DPOs on an international level is critical for the promotion of inclusive international cooperation policies.

Several organizations (over 25 NGOs and DPOs) are grouped within the “International Disability and Development Consortium”, whose work and resources are widely used in this cd-rom. IDDC has been particularly active in promoting the adoption of Article 32 of the Convention, and is working towards its effective implementation through development actions.

The IDDC website provides regular information on new developments in this field. The task groups on “Influencing Nations” and “Influencing the European Union” are the most directly involved in advocacy with institutional actors of international cooperation.
Access the website of IDDC

The International Disability Alliance (IDA) is also an important organization with regard to this issue. IDA works to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities throughout the United Nations system and with other global stakeholders to promote the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as a human rights treaty, and also as a social development tool.

This includes work towards the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the CRPD Committee and other UN treaty bodies, the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review, the UN Special Procedures, the UN General Assembly, UN agencies like OHCHR, ILO, UNICEF, UN DESA, UNHCR, WHO, UNDP, as well as the Inter-Agency Support Group to the CRPD.

The IDA website includes resources linked to its advocacy work.

IDA and IDDC are represented on the policy board of the UN PRPD mentioned above.
1. For a detailed explanation of inclusive development, see the following chapter. See also the Handicap International/International Disability & Development Consortium Paper disseminated at the Fifth AHC.IDDC Inclusive Development: .

2. See Millennium Declaration:

3. SG Report on the World Programme of Action A/63/183, Paragraph 4.

4. The information from this table is retrieved from IDDC project “IncludeEverybody”:

5. Idem. See also IDDC recommendations in the contribution to the OHCHR consultation on the “Role of international cooperation in support of national efforts for the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities”, 2011.

6. On the issue of disability and the MDGs, and disability and the post-MDGs, see additional resources including Handicap International and IDDC position papers on the post-MDG framework, and CBM including resource kit in the next sections.

7. Recommendations adapted from the European Disability Forum: « EDF Policy Paper on Development Cooperation And Disability » –

8. See terms of reference of the UNPRPD:



From →

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: