Dan Jones, Campaigns Manager, welcomes the Government’s commitments to prioritise people with disabilities in development, and urges full implementation.

“The UK Government is committed to ensuring that disabled people, and all other excluded social groups, are systematically and consistently included in DFID’s policy, programming and international work and will embed the recommendations from the IDC as far as possible. The UK supports the ambition of the High Level Panel Report on the post 2015 development agenda to eradicate extreme poverty and leave no one behind.”

–       Government response to the International Development Committee’s report on Disability & Development, June 2014

Hot on the heels of last week’s strong UK pledge to the Global Partnership for Education, we have more positive news to report! On Friday, after much anticipation, Parliament’s International Development Committee published the Government’s official response to their recommendations on prioritising people with disabilities in UK aid programmes. And thanks to the tireless campaigning of RESULTS grassroots advocates and many others, it’s good news.

Leroy Phillips chairs session on Inclusive Education at the Global Partnership for Education Pledging Conference. GPE/Chantal Rigaud
Leroy Phillips chairs a session on Inclusive Education at the 2014 Global Partnership for Education Pledging Conference. Credit: GPE/Chantal Rigaud

In a thoughtful, nuanced but ultimately very positive response to the Committee’s recommendations, DFID welcomes the IDC’s report, and agrees that disability is a significant development challenge and important to DFID’s mandate of reducing extreme poverty.

In their response, DFID argue that “a disability strategy” is not the right approach to prioritising support to people with disabilities, instead saying that they will strengthen the focus on disability within the Department’s holistic “social inclusion approach”. This approach aims to identify and tackle different barriers to development experienced because of disability, ethnicity, gender, geography, age, race or any combination of these. They argue that this approach, complemented by a stronger focus on disability, allows for a better understanding of the multi-layered and interlocking causes of poverty, and will ultimately lead to better inclusion of disabled people in mainstream programmes.

Despite this contested point, DFID go on to accept the need to strengthen their focus on disability, and make important and wide-ranging new commitments. These include:

–       Publishing a disability framework by November 2014, setting out a clear commitment, approach and actions to strengthen disability in DFID’s policy, programme and international work. They will develop the framework in discussion with Disabled People’s Organisations and NGOs working on disability.

–       Continuing to advocate for ‘no one left behind’, as a key principle of the Post-2015 development framework, and for goals to be underpinned by disaggregated data by different social group to ensure that they are met by everyone;

–       Including people with disabilities systematically in DFID’s humanitarian response work;

–       Announcing further sectoral commitments on disability by October 2014;

–       Striving to make DFID a more disability inclusive employer;

–       Developing, progressing and deepening their work on improving global evidence and data on disability.

To support these new commitments, DFID also pledge to strengthen their internal capacity with better guidance and training for all staff on inclusion; by appointing a senior managerial champion on disability; and by increasing the number of disability experts working in DFID.

Stephen from Handicap International and Lucy from SENSE launch new GCE disability report at the 2014 Global Partnership for Education pledging conference. Credit Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK.
Stephen from Handicap International and Lucy from SENSE launch new GCE disability report at the 2014 Global Partnership for Education pledging conference. Credit Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK.

Importantly, the response also highlights that the UK will play a leading role in seeking to improve the data on disability globally and in their partner developing countries, to end the invisibility of disabled people from development efforts. This includes organising “a joint technical conference with the UN and with Leonard Cheshire Disability research unit (UCL) to look at global practice and policy on strengthening data on disability in preparation for the Post 2015 framework”.

DFID Minister Lynne Featherstone MP has been instrumental in strengthening the department’s focus on disability. Last week, she spoke at a high level side event that RESULTS UK and the Global Campaign for Education helped to organise on inclusive education at the Global Partnership for Education replenishment conference, just hours before making the UK’s strong pledge of up to £300 million to the GPE. On the same day, we helped to launch a new Global Campaign for Education UK report which urges DFID to embed a systematic, strong focus on disability throughout UK aid to education.

DFID’s new commitments on disability create the potential for the UK to become a world leader on the inclusion of disabled people in overseas aid for the long term, crucially even after Lynne Featherstone moves on. We will be watching closely to see how these powerful words are turned into action for some of the world’s most marginalised people. But for now, RESULTS grassroots campaigners should give themselves a well-deserved pat on the back – your advocacy really does have the power to end poverty.