Development and Humanitarian Organizations

Currently people with disabilities too often are excluded from development and humanitarian activities.

Why Should Development be Inclusive of People with Disabilities?

People with disabilities represent a significant and disproportionately high percentage of people living in poverty. According to World Bank estimates, one in five people living on less than a dollar a day have a disability. Disability and poverty often are linked in a cycle. Disability causes poverty when people with disabilities are deprived of their capability to fully participate in society and claim their human rights. People with disabilities too often lack access to health care, goods and services, education and employment opportunities, or are subjected to institutionalization, all of which contribute to disproportionate impoverishment. For example, over 90% of children with disabilities in Africa do not receive an education. People will disabilities may also have greater vulnerability to the affects of global climate change.

Poverty, like disability, deprives individuals of their capability to fully participate in society. Poverty can also cause disablement by malnutrition, inadequate medical care, physically dangerous living and working conditions, and heightened vulnerability to natural disasters. The disability-poverty cycle affects not only the person with a disability, but also her or his household.

Broad-based economic growth requires the inclusion of people with disabilities in the socioeconomic development of their societies.  An estimated 1.71-2.23 trillion of global GDP is lost annually due to disability. By contrast, accommodating the needs of people with disabilities is not necessarily expensive. Most reasonable accommodations for employment do not carry significant cost. Building accessible environments is estimated to cost only one percent more.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be achieved without responding to the rights of people with disabilities. As recognized by James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank: "Unless disabled people are brought into the development mainstream, it will be impossible to cut poverty in half by 2015." Optimizing poverty reduction requires development inclusive of people with disabilities.

Development which is not inclusive of people with disabilities will increase inequality. Excluding people with disabilities from development increases the inequality gap between people with disabilities and those without disabilities. For example, physically inaccessible schools exclude children with disabilities from education. The World Bank however does not have a policy requiring accessible school construction. Construction accounts for approximately 45% of the World Bank's education-related lending.

Development that is not inclusive will prevent people with disabilities from claiming their human rights.  Countries will often require development assistance to comply with their own obligations under the CRPD. The Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 32 on International Cooperation requires countries to ensure that when providing this assistance "international cooperation, including international development programmes, is inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities." Countries therefore have a duty to ensure that their development programs do not infringe on the rights of people with disabilities as laid out in the CRPD.

Organizations are increasingly articulating human rights-based approaches to development due to the interconnection between development and human rights. Rights-based approaches can lead organizations to reconsider their missions and to move from providing charity to enabling rights. A rights-based development process respects the autonomy of all people and therefore mandates participation and accountability. Such approaches should include the poorest, including people with disabilities.

The Convention as an Inclusive Development Mechanism

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