Global Call to Action for Disability Inclusion

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World Learning strives to include persons with disabilities in all of our programs. We believe their inclusion strengthens our work by providing us with the diverse points of view, knowledge, and skills needed to create and implement successful programs. To that end, World Learning has established partnerships with organizations including Mobility International USA (MIUSA) and the US International Council on Disabilities (USCID) as well as disabled persons’ organizations in several countries to create stronger linkages for global programs around disability inclusion. In 2015, World Learning received the InterAction Disability Inclusion Award for its innovative efforts to promote disability inclusion as a human rights issue.

Now, in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, World Learning, in partnership with seven other civil society organizations focused on disability inclusion, are calling on the international community to reaffirm its commitment to people with disabilities. While there has been a great deal of progress in this area over the past decade, people with disabilities are still more likely to live in extreme poverty and face serious barriers in accessing health care, education, and economic opportunities. We all must improve our efforts to engage persons with disabilities in our programming so they have the means and opportunities to improve their lives and communities.

The following text was originally published by Devex on December 9, 2016.

Global Call to Action for Disability Inclusion

Next week marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the United Nations General Assembly. The groundbreaking convention set basic norms, frameworks for measuring progress, and reporting requirements for the political, social, and economic inclusion of the 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide — and has now been ratified by 170 countries.

The past decade has seen real achievements in disability inclusion, with the incorporation of disability rights into the Sustainable Development Goals and other international accords, the creation of national action plans for disability inclusion, the adoption of dedicated funding streams by numerous donors, and a heightened awareness of the importance of disability inclusion.

But even as we celebrate this progress, we are also reminded that for most people with disabilities around the world, the reality of exclusion from access to health care, education, housing, transport, and employment is unacceptable in the era of the SDGs and the “universal call for action.” The correlation between disability and extreme poverty is well-documented, with people with disabilities often comprising the poorest populations in the poorest regions. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in situations when social order breaks down, and are more susceptible to exploitation and violence in conflicts, natural disasters, and population displacement.

Moreover, our failure to draw on the skills and knowledge of this community as planners and implementers of development and humanitarian projects is a tremendous waste of talent and perpetuates the cycle of inequality and exclusion.

Simply stated, we are failing as a global community to provide the necessary resources, attention and leadership to ensure that this vital and talented population is empowered to better their own lives and their societies.

We are seven civil society organizations engaged in global development and humanitarian action. We have each received the InterAction Disability Inclusion award since 2009, an award that recognizes NGOs that are making strides toward greater disability inclusion in programs and management, and expanding leadership opportunities for this population. Along with our colleagues who chair InterAction’s disability working group, we know that disability inclusion is essential to achieving the SDGs and our global commitment to end extreme poverty within the next two decades.

Together, we have prepared a “global call to action for disability inclusion.” Reflecting on our own experiences, we call on the international development community to reaffirm their commitment to disability inclusion. We call on all governments, international organizations, civil society groups, academic institutions, and other actors to:

  • Prepare organization-wide action plans and policy documents on disability inclusion, linked to implementation structures that mandate clear provisions for monitoring and evaluation, and drawing on the insights and expertise of disabled persons organizations.
  • Require specific references to disability inclusion in all projects and solicitations, ensuring sufficient resources on the scale of 3–5 percent for accommodation, accessible facilities, awareness raising, institution strengthening, research and data collection, and other needs.
  • Create national and multilateral funds dedicated to supporting and strengthening local civil society institutions and host governments, recognizing that they are best placed to address issues of disability rights and inclusion in their national contexts.
  • Embed disability advisors and experts broadly within their institutions and ensure that these focal points they have sufficient authority to influence decisions of the full organization, as well as independent budgets.
  • Ensure that all funding and implementing institutions have adopted steps such that people with disabilities comprise at least 10 percent of their work force, backed by programs to mentor people with disabilities to be competitive candidates for positions; to eliminate bias in hiring, employment, promotion, and separation; to create a culture of inclusion where disclosure of disabilities leads to support and accommodation; and to provide reasonable accommodation practices.
  • Place particular attention to the protection and empowerment of people with disabilities who also face marginalization based on gender, sexual orientation, displacement status, race, religion, and age.

In a world of limited resources, multiple challenges, and seemingly endless priorities, some might ask whether we can afford to focus this degree of attention on including people with disabilities as planners, implementers and beneficiaries of all our programs.

We look at it differently. We ask: In a world that needs to benefit from the full talents of our diverse populations to eliminate poverty, achieve social justice, and end conflict, can we afford not to?


Neal Keny-Guyer
Chief Executive Officer
Mercy Corps
Winner: 2010

William Sweeney
President and CEO
International Foundation for Electoral Systems
Winner: 2011

Richard Stearns
World Vision
Winner: 2012

Jonathan Reckford
Chief Executive Officer
Habitat for Humanity
Winner: 2013

William Abrams
Trickle Up
Winner: 2009 and 2014

Donald Steinberg
Chief Executive Officer
World Learning
Winner: 2015

Kate Bunting
Chief Executive Officer
HelpAge USA
Winner: 2016

Sam Worthington
Chief Executive Officer

David Morrissey
Executive Director
U.S. International Council on Disabilities

Jeff Meer
Executive Director
Handicap International US

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