Cover of report An Untapped Potential

Below you will find the summary and the recommendations from the report An Untapped Potential. To read the complete report, click here.

Executive Summary

Inclusion of the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable groups is at the heart of most development programmes and initiatives, but people with disabilities are seldom focused on in this narrative. Acknowledging this, the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2006 in an attempt to catalyse global efforts to actively account for disability as part of the inclusion agenda. To date, 168 UN member states have ratified CRPD, including the Neth­erlands.

Article 32 is crafted around nine indicators that encourage collaboration between parties in the North and South to successfully bring CRPD to life in development agendas. Since the Convention came into force in 2006, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) has produced a marker to evaluate progress on disability inclusive programming. However, it is un­clear to what extent the Netherlands is making use of this tool and truly implementing Article 32, which gives rise to the question addressed in this report: What is the current state of affairs in the Netherlands with regard to the implementation of Article 32 of the CRPD?

This question was analysed by reviewing documents, including policy notes and available (grey) literature, as well as consultations with rele­vant government officials, civil society organizations and experts. The analysis shows that there is a growing awareness within the Dutch gov­ernment about the importance of disability inclusion in the development space, but any attempts to explicitly address Article 32 of CRPD are either absent or lacklustre. According to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, development programmes supported by the Dutch government structurally fail to take into account the rights of people with disabilities. Programmes aimed at disability inclusion represent only approximately 2% of the total Dutch Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget.

An array of international initiatives to implement CRPD were canvased to seek inspiration for possible courses of action for the Dutch government, including: the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network, which multilat­erally unites 34 members who provide financial and technical support for disability inclusion initiatives; Help a Child (HaC), a Dutch non-governmen­tal organization (NGO) developing disability inclusion implementation strategies on the local level; and Make 12.4% Work, a Ugandan initiative bridging the private-public sector gap to actualize the CRPD.


This chapter presents nine recommendations, which have been formulated on the basis of the consultations and document analysed in the preceding chap­ters, to move the implementation of Article 32 forward in the Netherlands.

1. Develop and disseminate a government memo on the implementation of article 32

The Netherlands has committed to Article 32; it is, therefore, no longer a ques­tion of willingness, but requires action. The Netherlands should make use of Article 32 as a legal framework and its indicators as a road map towards dis­ability inclusion. The CRPD should become a pivotal part of disability inclusion strategies both in policy and practice. The first step to actualize this is to draft a memo on how Article 32 will be implemented in Dutch development coop­eration and how the article can be translated into the work of, e.g. embassies, civil society organizations and multilateral partnerships. Moreover, it should outline the consequences non-implementation of this article for relationships between the Netherlands and other governments and how this will affect trade agreements.

2. Adopt the OECD DAC disability marker to track prog­ress on disability inclusion

Reporting on Article 32 and disability inclusion within programmes will provide objective insights into the progress that has been made, or the lack thereof. It will make visible what is required to push disability inclusion forward. The OECD DAC disability marker can assist in systematically tracking developments on disability inclusion and should, therefore, be adopted.

3. Facilitate empowerment and participation simulta­neously

There are two ways to bring disability inclusion further: firstly, empower peo­ple and, secondly, make sure they can participate in all programmes. These two ways are both essential. On the one hand, all development programmes should be inclusive throughout the different programme stages (from design to beneficiaries). The Netherlands should take responsibility for the programmes that are funded by Dutch money and at all times avoid (unintentionally) con­tributing to the exclusion of people with disabilities (e.g. by constructing infra­structure that is inaccessible). On the other hand, programmes specially aimed to empower people with disabilities are necessary to remove hurdles for par­ticipation and tackle (social) exclusion. One way to stimulate both empowering and participatory programming is to offer financial incentives to organizations that pay attention to disability inclusion in their proposals.

4. Embed programmes in the local context

A solid understanding of local perceptions of disability should be the starting point of any programme or activity on disability inclusion, to ensure owner­ship and proper implementation and to avoid reproducing unequal relation­ships. Partnering with local disability organizations is important to embed pro­grammes in the local context.

5. Enhance Dutch capacity (human resources, knowl­edge and funding) on disability inclusion

The Dutch government should invest in strengthening disability inclusion, in terms of human resources, knowledge and funding. This begins by providing the CRPD focal point within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a clear man­date, as well as sufficient capacity and time to commit to the task. This will ensure systematic efforts rather than fragmented and ad hoc efforts that are dependent on people who are personally committed to disability inclusion. At the same time, knowledge within the government and embassies on disabil­ity inclusion should be built (e.g. by training ambassadors on human rights, inclusion and the different forms of exclusion). Such expertise can be built by providing structural funding to disability organizations to develop trainings to mainstream disability inclusion and transfer knowledge to the government of the Netherlands/Ministry of Foreign Affairs and civil society organizations. At the same time disability organizations themselves need to critically reflect on their own organizations and become more inclusive on several levels, e.g. gen­der, different forms of disability, ethnicity.

6. Adopt an intersectional lens to address the multiple layers of exclusion

The Netherlands is leading in the diversity agenda, e.g. gender, youth and les­bian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI). Disability can be incorporated into this agenda through an intersectional lens, as exclusion manifests itself in multiple ways. Reaching out to feminists or other frontrun­ners within different departments of the Dutch government and within civil society organizations may be a good entry point to initiate such a lens. These people know what it means to be excluded and can potentially become cham­pions for disability inclusive change.

7. Become internationally engaged to learn and coop­erate on disability inclusion globally

The Netherlands should show more engagement internationally and partici­pate actively within the GLAD Network, and join other international initiatives such as the annual Global Disability Summit, to get inspired and cooperate on disability inclusion globally.

8. Realise the economic gains of disability inclusion

We must reframe our perspectives and remember that benefits from inclusion of persons with disabilities extend far morality – there are endless economic gains to be realised by all of society if disability inclusion becomes a core focus. Jobs, opportunity, and economic growth are all within the realm of possibility with disability inclusion.

9. Start doing the work!

Trial and error, learning by doing; it is better to start taking steps and perfect and polish the strategies along the way, than to keep discussing and waiting for the ‘right’ strategy. The operationalisation of inclusion should start close to home, within the government and civil society organizations, e.g. by reviewing employment policies and the accessibility of facilities (e.g. wheelchair accessi­ble buildings), among other things.

While recommendations 1-9 provide guidance on how to make headway on implementing Article 32, it is crucial to state that as long as people with disabil­ities are stigmatized and seen as incapable and people experience discomfort around them, it will remain a challenge to fully implement Article 32. But, if we start doing the work, while not forgetting our prejudices and forcing ourselves to shift our current mindset, we can break not only the barriers that people with disabilities experience, but also those in our minds

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