Speakers at an event December 2018

From promises to action: DFID’s Disability Strategy

Every day, of every year, we advocate for inclusion, and for the realisation of rights for the one billion people living with disabilities worldwide.

However, as the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, 3 December is a day that we as activists celebrate together, and talk with a collective voice – with the potential for more attention.

This year the UK Department for International Development (DFID) used the day, a week ago, as a platform to launch its new Disability Strategy. This is a huge milestone, and finally puts into place the recommendation made by the International Development Committee made in 2013.

The strategy follows on from and builds upon the Disability Framework launched in 2014 and updated in 2015 and the work done at the Global Disability Summit held in July this year, co-hosted by DFID, International Disability Alliance and the government of Kenya. The strategy sets out DFID’s vision for disability inclusive development and recognises that business as usual will not drive the change we need to see. It moves disability inclusion from an issue that is seen by many as a niche subject to something that must be central to the way in which DFID, and we all, do development.

It contains ambitious commitments across different areas of work that will enable people with disabilities worldwide to access their rights and to be included in society, throughout their lives. It also includes a delivery plan which outlines how DFID will demand more of partners as well as itself. The plan, while being crucial to ensuring DFID can hold itself to account, will need further work to ensure it provides a clear roadmap for DFID, and its partners, to fulfil its commitments and ambition, in this strategy. We hope will be addressed in the next version.

The Bond Disability and Development Group (DDG) has been working closely with DFID for many years now and we are delighted by the evolution of their work on disability inclusion. We feel the Disability Strategy is a great reflection not just on DFID’s increased ambition on this important and, until recently, neglected issue, but also the need on the ground. However, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the programmes being implemented by all partners involved to identify good practice or highlight concerns and how those concerns can be mitigated.

The strategy shows how far DFID has come on disability inclusion. It includes a set of standards that all DFID country offices and teams will have to meet by the end of next year. This will be crucial to ensure that disability is mainstreamed across DFID. The strategy also includes elements that DFID has not focused on in the past – such as mental health and psychosocial disability and assistive technology – both areas of work that have been neglected for too long.

If implemented fully, the strategy has potential to have a huge impact on the lives of many in the years to come.

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As a group that has worked very hard alongside DFID on the strategy, the Bond DDG were delighted to have co-hosted the launch event. It was wonderful to see the packed room at Channel 4 – it highlights that we have come a long way and now have the attention of many. This attention and the actions of all after the event is vital. As Anne Wafula Strike, MBE, British Paralympic wheelchair racer and chair of the event said in her opening statement, “I read the strategy and smiled”. It brings us from promises to action.

For the estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide who currently face too many barriers to inclusion in too many aspects of their lives, we must move to action. Now is the time! And we look forward to working in partnership with DFID, the private sector and the wider development community. We hope many more will join us along the way – as only in partnership can we truly ensure that we leave no one behind.

Find out more about the Bond Disability and Development Group. Bond members can join for free.