Disability and development - International Development Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. According to the World Bank, around one billion people—or 15% of the world's population—are disabled.[1]Definitions of disability vary, but most agree that disability is not just about medical conditions. Rather, it is characterised by the discrimination and harmful social norms that people with such conditions have to contend with.[2] For the purposes of this inquiry, we have taken the same approach as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

    Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.[3]

This definition encompasses people with a wide range of impairments—physical; sensory; intellectual; and mental health—but with a common experience of stigma and exclusion.

2. Disability and poverty are closely linked. 80% of disabled people worldwide live in developing countries,[4] where—according to DFID's own research—they are more likely to fall into poverty, and have less opportunity to escape.[5] Disability can lead to a vicious circle of poverty and ill-treatment, as witnesses from Kenya and India described:

    I hear and experience cases where a mother who has given birth to a deaf-blind child [...] has to quit her job because she has to take care of her deaf-blind child. That becomes a double tragedy for the family, because that mother stops earning a very important income that would sustain the rest of the family members. As soon as the mother stops working, in most cases the husband may desert that family. That compounds the problems that such a family experiences.[6]

    I know of a family in the slums of Bangalore that has a daughter with cerebral palsy. She had difficulty walking and both her parents worked hard to ensure their children attended school. Somehow they managed to get a second-hand wheelchair for her to go to school. [...] Unfortunately, [...] the school she wanted to go to was not accessible and did not have accessible toilet facilities. [...] Therefore, she dropped out of school. In poor communities, children like her, and children with multiple intellectual and psycho-social impairments, are left at home all day, making them vulnerable to abuse. When they become victims, they do not have access to justice and the stigma adds to this.[7]

3. Because disability is so closely connected with the challenges of eradicating poverty, we decided to undertake an inquiry into the UK Government's approach to disability in its development work. Since we first announced our intention to hold the inquiry, the Department for International Development (DFID) Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (PUSS), Lynne Featherstone MP, has made a number of promising statements on the importance of addressing disability. In September 2013, she told the United Nations (UN) she was "determined to make people with disabilities a key development priority".[8] This inquiry will explore how these aspirations are being put into practice.

4. Earlier this Parliament, we held an inquiry into Violence Against Women and Girls—another thematic issue which, like disability, affects many different sectors of DFID's work.[9] There are several similarities between the two issues—in particular, both are characterised by discriminatory social norms, and donors need to adapt their programmes to tackle this.[10] We have drawn on the Violence Against Women and Girls inquiry in preparing this one, and comment on some further similarities at later points in the report.

5. We held three evidence sessions for the inquiry. Witnesses included disabled people from developing countries; experts in disability and development from the UN, academia, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs); and the DFID Minister. We also held informal meetings so that we could hear from a wider range of stakeholders, including people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.[11] We received 80 submissions of written evidence from: disabled people's organisations (DPOs), NGOs,[12] multilateral bodies and UN agencies, researchers, and Government departments in the UK and overseas. We were particularly pleased that 15 of these submissions came from DPOs in developing countries. We would like to thank everyone who was involved in the inquiry, especially those who gave evidence orally or in writing.[13]

6. This report sets out our analysis of, and recommendations for, the UK Government's response to disability in its development and humanitarian work.

·  Chapter Two explores how a stronger focus on disability would complement DFID's wider objectives.

·  Chapters Three and Four suggest practical steps DFID could take to build on its existing disability work: Chapter Three looks at incentives, and Chapter Four considers who should be involved.

·  Chapter Five considers how DFID's work across different sectors couldbest be made accessible to disabled people.

·  Chapter Six deals with the treatment and prevention ofconditions that cause disability.

·  Finally, Chapter Seven examines how DFID could encourage the organisations that it works with to do more to address disability.

1   World Bank/World Health Organisation, World Report on Disability, Geneva, 2011, p.29. As explained in the World Report on Disability, this estimate inevitably involves a number of assumptions and judgements. Back

2   For example, Mike Oliver, The Individual and Social Models of Disability, 23 July 1990; Philippa Thomas, Disability, Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals: Relevance, Opportunities and Challenges for DFID, Cornell, 2005, p3 Back

3   United Nations, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Preamble paragraph e Back

4   Leonard Cheshire Disability Annex A (DIS0077) para 3.1.2 Back

5   Philippa Thomas, Disability, Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals: Relevance, Opportunities and Challenges for DFID, Cornell, 2005, pp 5-6 Back

6   Q2 [Mr Osundwa] Back

7   Q2 [Mr Chandrasekar] Back

8   DFID, 'UK Commits to Tackle the 'Great Neglect' of Disability', accessed 19 March 2014 Back

9   International Development Committee, Second Report of Session 2013-14, Violence Against Women and Girls, HC 107-I Back

10   International Development Committee, Violence Against Women and Girls, para 14 Back

11   Psychosocial disability is the term for the exclusion experienced by people who have suffered mental health problems. Back

12   Throughout this report, we draw a distinction between DPOs and NGOs. Technically, DPOs are just one type of non-governmental organisation. However, in the context of disability, the terms are treated as mutually exclusive - a DPO is made up of, and run by, disabled people; an NGO is not.  Back

13   We are also grateful to all the experts who provided us with informal advice during the inquiry, including the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre at University College London, the Centre for Global Mental Health, ADD International, Handicap International, Sightsavers, Motivation, Basic Needs, Dr S Miles, Dr D Chisholm, and others. Back

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Prepared 10 April 2014