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Dutch policies on international cooperation, in particular policies regarding poverty reduction, must recognize the urgency of creating equal access and opportunities for persons with disabilities. All initiatives on development cooperation should include a strategy for removing barriers that cause exclusion and monitor the progress by disaggregated data. All initiatives should be co-developed and monitored closely by those who should benefit from the programs.
Recognizing the urgency of inclusion
Twenty percent of the persons living below the poverty line are persons with a disability and there is a higher disability prevalence in LMIC[ii]. Disability disproportionately affects vulnerable populations such as women, older people and persons living with HIV/AIDS. Due to aging populations, the number of people with disabilities is growing worldwide.
The Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge that persons with disabilities are among the persons most in need[iii], and that if we want to leave no one behind, we explicitly need to address their inclusion. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) stems from the fact that persons with disabilities are inadequately protected by existing laws and legislation and do not fully participate in society on equal basis with others. The Convention (ratified by more than 150 countries!) acknowledges in its preamble the strong relation between poverty and disability and mentions international cooperation as a major instrument for improving the living conditions of persons with disabilities. It outlines in detail what governments can do to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The CRPD established an agenda for social change. Implementation and monitoring of this convention provide useful knowledge for promoting access and opportunities of other excluded groups. If the Dutch Government seriously supports the post-2015 development agenda, it should endorse the urgency of including persons with disabilities in international cooperation policies.
Explicit inclusion strategy
In all initiatives on development cooperation supported by the Dutch government – especially those on the thematic areas – excluded groups need to be identified in a base-line study, followed by an explicit strategy to include these groups, in particular persons with disabilities. These strategies must set clear targets and goals for removing barriers that exclude persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups. Examples of barriers are stereotyping and negative attitudes – they lead to discrimination and (self-)stigmatization -, lack of accessibility and inadequate policies and legislation. The inclusion strategy must be in line with the UN-CRPD.
The Dutch government should support the establishment of an independent platform for ‘sustainable inclusive development’ in which all stakeholders participate, including disability civil society organizations. This platform acts as a watchdog, monitors the progress on inclusion of marginalized groups and advices the ministry on the improvement of inclusion policies and practices.
The numbers tell the tale
In all development cooperation initiatives the inclusion of the identified marginalized groups must be monitored and evaluated. The collection of disability disaggregated data is particularly relevant. What gets measured gets done!
Also of crucial importance is promoting sensitization and building capacity on equal rights, access and opportunities for marginalized groups. Make sure that policy makers, diplomats, politicians and other stakeholders properly understand the UN-CRPD. Learn from donors such as Aus-Aid and DFID.
Close cooperation with marginalized groups
Good governance implies a process by which people take an active and influential part in shaping decisions affecting their lives. People with disabilities often have unique insights in their disability and their situation. Disability civil society organizations – and representatives of other marginalised groups – need to be involved in formulating and implementing policies, laws, and services.
[i] ICCO-coöperatie; International Child Development Initiatives (ICDI); Karuna Foundation; Royal Dutch Kentalis; Leprastichting, Leprazending; Light for the World, Liliane Fonds, Medisch Comité Nederland-Vietnam (MCNV); Soft Tulip; Koninklijke Visio; Wilde Ganzen; www.dcdd.nl
[ii] World Health Survey and http://www.gsdrc.org/go/display&type=Document&id=4193
[iii] Disability is mentioned in the Chapeau and in the areas of education, employment, accessible cities, inequalities and means of implementation/ disaggregation of data (proposed Goals 4, 8, 10, 11 and 17). https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgsproposal
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