Making the Millennium Development Goals Disability Inclusive
The United Nations General Assembly established International Disability Day in 1998 to promote awareness of disability issues. It is observed annually on December 3rd and each year has a different theme to highlight the variety of issues faced by disabled people. These themes range from access to decent work, independent living and arts and culture. For 2009, the International Day is focusing on making the Millennium Development Goals Inclusive of disabled people.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) were developed in 2000 as a strategy for poverty reduction, and has been agreed to by all world institutions to meet the needs of the worlds poorest. However, out of the 48 MDG indicators, there was is reference to disabled people or to disability in general. Nearly 10 years later, it is now widely recognised that the MDG’s cannot reach their targets without addressing the needs of disabled people.
Disability affects a large proportion of the world’s population and disabled people are among the poorest of the poor. It is estimated that 10 to 12 per cent of the world’s population – 670-800 million people have a disability, the majority of whom, approximately 80% live in developing countries. The high level of poverty experienced by disabled people stems from their routine exclusion from social and economic life. This exclusion occurs across the globe, be that in developed or industrialised countries. For example in Ireland, over 60% of disabled people are not in employment and in developing countries the link between disability and poverty is exacerbated.
Evidence suggests that poverty is linked with disability and that disability may aggravate poverty risk. Persons with disabilities make up 20% of the poorest people living below one dollar a day and lacking access to food, clean water, clothing and shelter (Elwan, Ann 1999).
In developing countries, disabled people’s poverty is magnified. As mentioned earlier, exclusion from employment, education and basic services occurs on a daily basis for disabled people. For example,
- In India, the employment rates of disabled people are 60% lower than that of the general population (WB 2007).
- One-third of out-of-school children in developing countries have a disability. (Peters, S, 2003)
- Disability is a stronger correlate of non-enrolment than either gender or class. (Filmer, D, 2008)
In the past decade, disability has finally been recognised as a development issue. This is largely due to the effective awareness raising and lobbying by disability groups throughout the world. This awareness has led to a number of policy initiatives focusing on including disability in mainstream poverty reduction strategies such as the, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and MDGs. In 2009, an expert group within the UN family was established focusing on including disability in the MDGs. Most recently there has been a draft resolution for the UN General Assembly on ‘Realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities’.
These policy developments coupled with the specific provisions of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (Article 32, International Cooperation, Article 11 on risk and humanitarian emergencies) provide the international community with a good starting point for working towards the effective inclusion of disabled people in development interventions.