THE BLOG

2014: A Landmark Year for Disability and Development?

30/06/2014 11:19 BST | Updated 27/08/2014 10:59 BST

Todays' announcement on disability and development by the UK government is transformational in many ways. Firstly and most importantly in terms of the impact it will have on many of the 800 million people living with disabilities in developing countries. But also in the way in which DFID itself operates and in the impact it will have on the wider development community.

In 2014, the Government has committed to strengthen disability in their policy, programming and international work. A call Sightsavers has been making through our Put Us in the Picture campaign since December 2013.

By the end of the year, DFID will have recruited new staff, made specific new commitments in thematic areas and wrapped all this into a systematic disability framework. This is the most comprehensive commitment to disability ever announced by a UK government in its development policy, and with the negotiations for the post 2015 framework around the corner, it comes at a crucial time in global development policy.

So firstly in terms of direct impact on people with disabilities, DFID has recognised the fundamental right of people with disabilities to participate fully in decision making processes and have a voice in the development decisions that affect their daily lives. They will include a wider and more representative group in their own disability advisory group, a huge step in ensuring the voices of people with disabilities are heard within DFID.

We know the value of this through our work on the Voices of the Marginalised pilot project, which aims to bring the perspectives of those living with disabilities, through participatory research, into global decision-making processes.

DFID is also one of the world's leading donors of education work across the planet, spending £630 million on this sector in 2012/13. That makes it all the more important that they have committed to better understanding the educational needs of children with disabilities so that they have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed in school. Finally, children like 15 year Nabirye from Uganda will be able to realise their potential. After losing her sight aged nine, Nabirye had to drop out of school because it didn't have the equipment or teachers needed to support students with disabilities such as hers. Greater attention to inclusion within DFID's education programmes will mean thousands of children like Nabirye will have access to one of the most important starts in life, an education.

DFID has also recognised the need for disaggregated data and has stated that without data showing progress for all relevant income and social groups, including people with disabilities, no target for the post 2015 framework can be said to be met. This means effectively targeting people with disabilities and ensuring development programmes include those most in need. This is a commitment across thematic areas and is at the heart of an inclusive approach to development.

Secondly, alongside these announcements, which will directly impact people with disabilities, DFID plans to build their own capacity and expertise. This will include the appointment of a senior level champion and other staff who will work alongside expert groups and people with disabilities. This will strengthen their position as a global leader in this field and build on the fantastic commitment and leadership demonstrated by the current minister, Lynne Featherstone.

Thirdly, it is also a major step forward to see DFID promising to hold bilateral and multilateral funding partners to account and encouraging them to do more to reach people with disabilities in their own programmes. DFID spends over 50% of its budget through multilateral agencies, so this could play a critical role in making these agencies more inclusive of disability. Within the UK, DFID spends £150m a year through central funds allocated to UK NGOs and has promised to ensure that all of the programmes it funds through these mechanisms consider their impact on people with disabilities.

Finally, agencies in the UK and across the world will be encouraged and supported to include disability in their planning and implementation of development programmes. This could have an impact on people with disabilities' access to water, to food security, education, health, legal services and so many other things that many of their peers are starting to realise.

While I'm on this area of UK NGOs, Sightsavers is one. Both we and ADD have been tasked by DFID with the challenge of raising the profile of disability within the UK development sector and sharing our learning and expertise. We accept.

The call for DFID to make concrete commitments to include people with disabilities has been growing over the last decade. 2014 marks the year where these calls have been heard.

We look forward to working with DFID to ensure people with disabilities are at the heart of the decisions to come, the impact of which could change the lives of millions.