Dutch Parliament

On 2 July, Minister Kaag shared the letter about the “Dutch international commitment for people with disabilities” with the House of Representatives. The Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) – consisting of 23 organizations and individual members – appreciates the support that the ministry offers to various inclusion projects and programs.

The letter shows that projects are increasingly being supported by organizations of people with disabilities that are committed to inclusive system change in their countries through, among other things, the Accountability Fund and Voice. The multilateral programs to which the Netherlands contributes are increasingly paying attention to inclusion. We see this as a very positive development.

Based on the overview in the letter, we estimate [1] that currently less than 2% of the total Dutch ODA budget is spent on programs that either support the empowerment of organizations of people with disabilities (such as projects through Voice and Accountability Fund), or that paying attention to the inclusion of people with disabilities through mainstreaming within a broader theme (such as education).

The Dutch commitment to inclusion is therefore not nearly in line with the ambition that the Minister emphasizes in the same letter, namely: “the ambition to achieve improvements primarily for those who are most disadvantaged (leave no one behind agenda).”

We see three important reasons for giving more attention to inclusion and disability mainstreaming within existing programs in a more concrete and structured way in policy:

  1. Human rights: People with disabilities are part of the target groups that the ministry focuses on: – 1 in 7 people worldwide, 1 in 5 poor people and people in crisis areas, – 1 in 5 women, – 1 in 4 LHBTI people, 1 in12 young people… has a disability. The UN Handicap Convention, to which the Netherlands committed itself in 2016, states that countries must “ensure that international cooperation, including international development programs, is accessible to people with disabilities and that no one is excluded” (Article 32). It is remarkable that the letter from the Minister does not mention the UN Handicap Convention.
  2. SDG impact: The letter rightly emphasizes that “the efforts [currently being made by the Netherlands for people with disabilities] are essential to achieve the seventeen sustainable development goals by 2030.” This is not just because there are many people with disabilities, and most of them live in poverty, but also because exclusion has consequences for close relatives and society as a whole. Research shows that it only costs 3% of a program budget to include accessibility for people with disabilities in the design and implementation of a development program from the start. The “return on investment” of such inclusion measures is very high – both economically and socially [2].
  3. ‘Do no harm‘: according to our estimate, 98% of the ODA budget is allocated to programs that could potentially have a negative impact on equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Because there seems to be no specific attention to disability mainstreaming in these programs, they often unintentionally maintain existing barriers or create new ones. Think of inaccessible information campaigns, construction of physical infrastructure and design of digital infrastructure without using the international accessibility guidelines. It costs communities in partner countries a lot of extra resources to remove such barriers afterward.

We would like to emphasize that DCDD advocates an approach that does not require the development of separate financing instruments for people with disabilities. With ‘Power of Voices’ and the ‘SDG 5 fund’, the Minister has good tools for empowerment, which organizations of people with disabilities can use, provided they have sufficient access to these instruments. In addition, the Minister has important instruments in areas such as food security, education, employment, trade, water and sanitation, sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial support and emergency aid, in which people with disabilities can participate, provided that sufficient attention is paid to mainstreaming of disability.

We propose three concrete measures to greatly improve the inclusion of people with disabilities in the coming two years:

  • Make the importance of inclusion visible: make it explicit in calls that BZ attaches importance to the inclusion of people with disabilities and set a criterion for this in program assessments. Start with a pilot in two subsidy frameworks on themes that have a great impact (i.e. emergency aid and education). Based on the lessons learned, it can be determined what can be improved and scaled up;
  • Make the progress on ‘leave no one behind’ demonstrable: report on the OECD DAC disability marker [3] that was set in 2018. Investigate at the same time how an indicator can improve the monitoring of inclusion within programs (for example by means of an expert meeting [4]);
  • Give capacity for inclusion a structural place: make sure that there is a focal person within BZ with a clear mandate on disability inclusion and support a platform of expert organizations around SDG 10-LNOB, who can advise BZ partners on shaping inclusion within their programs.

The Broker recently conducted a study into the steps taken by various stakeholders in the Dutch development sector to shape the inclusion of people with disabilities in their programs (since the UN Handicap Convention was ratified in 2016). The result will be published on 11 October during the Partos Innovation Festival and handed over to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation on 14 October.

[1] There are no amounts in the letter, so this estimate is made as follows: Via Voice, 1.5 million per year goes to projects of people with disabilities. The 10 projects through the embassies do not appear to be large-scale projects, so it is estimated that this will be a maximum of 4 million together with Voice. Of the total budget for civil society (210 million) that is around 2%. The contribution to Global Partnership for Education is 20 million and to Education Cannot Wait 3 million; together with the other two inclusive multilateral programs, this is estimated to be a maximum of 40 million a year. So if we assume 44 million out of a total of 4 billion, that is about 1% of demonstrably inclusive and target group-oriented spending of ODA funds. However, as the Minister states in the letter, the overview is not complete, which results in a final estimate of “less than 2%”.
[2] DCDD (2018) “Social Business Case”: https://bit.ly/35c923O
[3] OECD-DAC (2018) DCD / DAC / STAT (2018) 39 / REV1: https://bit.ly/2LSjeH2
[4] Involve expertise from the GLAD Network, a network in which donor countries exchange experiences and tools on disability inclusion with other stakeholders: https://gladnetwork.net

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