Campaigning for inclusion

During my eleven weeks at Sightsavers I have been hearing about the UK Parliament’s Select Committee on International Development (IDC) and how they have been holding an inquiry looking at development and disability.

The parliamentary body monitors the activities of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Sightsaver’s Put Us in the Picture campaign is calling for DfID to make its development programmes more inclusive for people with disabilities and so they submitted evidence to this parliamentary body to be considered during this inquiry.

Bishop Willis School
Photo by Graeme Robertson – The Guardian

Repeatedly organisations like Sightsavers had been telling the committee that the aid system is not including disabled people. The report that came out yesterday (10th April) showed that the Select Committee found that this is true. It is a privilege to be working for an organisation that is at the forefront of this research on disability. All of us in the press team have been extremely busy over the past week as  Sightsavers has been called upon for comments and insight from many organisations.

In a New Internationalist blog written by Sightsaver’s Campaign Manager, I read that in 2000, the Department for International Development (DfID) produced a report called ‘Disability, Poverty and Development’ that broke new ground by explicitly supporting the link between poverty and disability. But “despite being an early champion of disability as a development issue and having supported specific disability initiatives, DfID has not secured significant or sustainable progress in this area” (Kennedy). As it says in the Oxfam Blog by Hossain and Modern, the Select Committee’s evidence shows that even at DfID only 5% of bilateral aid spending is on programmes that are designed to benefit disabled people. With 15% of the world’s population being disabled, this is obviously lacking.

The Committee’s report recommends that DfID put in place several key mechanisms to make sure disability gets mainstreamed across the organisation, rather than staying a niche issue that individuals work on if they have a personal interest, including the following:

  • a disability strategy with clear targets and timescales;
  • a larger team of staff working on disability, including ‘champions’ within each country team and a senior sponsor; and
  • strong reporting processes to ensure accountability.

In the Huffington Post, Sightsaver’s Director of Policy and Strategic Programme Support, Dominic Haslam says,

The report echoes the main call in Sightsavers’ Put Us in the Picture campaign that DFID should develop and implement “a disability strategy with clear targets and timescales”. A strategy, to me, provides the backbone to a genuine commitment to inclusion of people with disabilities. It would inform, guide and prioritise all the more detailed actions DFID can take, to ensure people with disabilities are included in all development programmes. These should include having a voice in setting development priorities and benefitting from well-designed specific interventions that empower them to participate fully in society and allow them to access services.

Because this is an official select committee report, DfID must provide a government response setting out how it will meet the recommendations made. Sightsavers is excited to see this response.

Will DfID take immediate action to increase education of disabled children, employment of disabled youth and investment for the health of disabled people in low and middle-income countries?

As Hussain and Modern from Oxfam say, “making DfID’s aid more inclusive of disabled people will be transformative, not only for disabled people themselves, but for whole communities”.

The IDC Report: Read it here

Read more about Sightsaver’s response to the IDC report:

Huffington Post – Dominic Haslam’s Blog

New Internationalist – Natasha Kennedy’s Blog

Sightsavers website – News story

The Social Issue – by Saba Salman

The Guardian (Dominic Hasalm is quoted)


Other articles about Disability and Development:

Oxfam Blog

UK Parliament

The Telegraph

Information Daily

Lib Dem Voice


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