Disability inclusive or CRPD compliant budgeting?

In recent years, there has been a growing interest on the role of public budget in supporting inclusion of persons with disabilities. The terms inclusive budgeting, disability budgeting, disability responsive budgeting, are used interchangeably. But do they mean the same?

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – which explicitly sets out states’ obligations to ensure the realization of all  the civil, political, cultural, social and economic rights of all persons with disabilities – was adopted in 2006 and has now been ratified by 177 countries worldwide.[1] According to the 2011 World Report on Disability (World Health Organisation and  World Bank), national implementation of the CRPD requires policy reforms, social innovation, pilot programs and scaling up of successful local practices for most countries and in most policy areas.[2] This in turn requires, in all countries, better and often greater mobilization and use of public resources for inclusion.

In recent years, interest has been growing on the role of public budget in supporting the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The terms inclusive budgeting, disability budgeting, disability responsive budgeting, have been used interchangeably. But do they mean the same?

Inclusive budgeting is probably the broadest concept. It implies that government revenue generation and expenditures will contribute to inclusive development, involving and benefitting all people in their diversity. This includes persons with disabilities among others and pays attention to the impact of revenue generation and expenditures on the most marginalized. It ensures that all marginalized groups are meaningfully consulted in budget processes. For all its strengths, one weakness is that this approach can miss the specific requirements of different groups, particularly the most marginalized within each constituency, such as services that would be needed for persons with deafblindness for instance.

incl2Disability budgeting and disability responsive budgeting are an echo of gender responsive and child responsive budgeting, with a focus on persons with disabilities.  The issue is that such approaches are not specific enough and can create confusion. For instance, governments, in a good faith, might consider as disability responsive budgeting, the fact to increase, increase expenditures on items like primary prevention (e.g., immunization, demining or mine risk awareness). While worthwhile, these actions don’t promote inclusion. Worse, under the heading of “disability responsiveness” they might undertake expenditures directly at odds with the CRPD, such as spending on residential institutions, segregated education or psychiatric hospitals who may practice forced treatment and coercion in contradiction with the CRPD.

CRPD compliant budgeting is more specific and clearly sets expectations for budget analysis and advocacy. While the CRPD Committee has not yet developed a specific guidance on the subject, one could elaborate few basic elements in line with CRPD Article 3 (general principles) and Article 4 (general obligations):

  • The overall public finance management system contributes to the realization of all human rights of all persons with disabilities as specified in the CRPD, using all public financial management instruments (transfers, public procurement, grants, contracts, tax expenditures…)
  • Public resources do not finance programs and services that are in contradiction with the CRPD principles and provision:
    • Plans are implemented for the reform, transition and reallocation from non-CRPD compliant to CRPD compliant policies, services and programs.
    • This applies also to services that are publicly funded and/or regulated but delivered by private entities
  • All spending are done in ways that prevent the creation or perpetuation of barriers with strong emphasis on accessibility and non-discrimination requirement in public procurement, among other specific measures. Too often, investments in infrastructure, services and programmes are likely to inadvertently create more barriers for persons with disabilities, which ultimately produce unnecessary costs to overcome them further down the line, impairing effectiveness of domestic and international resources.
  • Public resources should be used to:
    • Sustain and ensure universal access to effective national policies, programs and services compliant with CRPD
    • Scale up effective local programs, services and initiatives compliant with CRPD
    • Allow for development of new policies addressing gaps in required services for inclusion
  • Specific attention should be paid so that those spending support inclusion of most marginalized groups among person with disabilities
  • Maximum available resources, including domestic and international, are mobilized across sectors and at central and local government level. In many countries, the largest spenders of public resources for disability inclusion are, in descending order: the ministry of social affairs, the health and education ministries, and sometimes the ministry of labor. Most ministries do not have a specific allocation that would contribute to making their services and programs inclusive of persons with disabilities.
  • Money follows responsibilities: in some countries, responsibilities for service delivery have increasingly been transferred to local governments, but with no commensurate transfer of resources from the central level, which increases competing priorities at local level.
  • Revenue generation including taxation is progressive and takes into consideration the extra costs faced by persons with disabilities
  • The principle of non-retrogression is fully applied and prevents disproportionate and arbitrary cuts in resources allocated for inclusion of persons with disabilities. Austerity measures that have weakened standards of support across Europe since the 2008 crisis are an illustration of such negative policies.
  • Budgeting processes and reports are transparent, with agreed upon indicators for monitoring the progress of CPRD compliant budgeting, including not only budgetary obligations but expenditures, as well.

As mentioned, countries irrespective of their level of income or economic development have to use maximum available resources to meet CRPD commitments,[3] but the way this should be done varies according to context.

For some countries, mostly members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or some former socialist countries, which already have substantial spending on disability (albeit not always sufficient to meet their obligations in full, and subject in recent years to damaging austerity policies), it implies first reallocation of some expenditures towards CRPD-compliant programmes and policies, such as deinstitutionalization and the development of community-based services, with the unavoidable cost of transition.

Most LMICs have been spending very little for inclusion of persons with disabilities, therefore implementing the CRPD implies overall significant increase of budget allocation in different sectors, education, social protection, especially with regards to development of support services. However, CRPD compliant budgeting is very much about ensuring that there are effective regulations ensuring non-discrimination and accessibility across mainstream sector investments to make the most of existing expenditures for inclusion. Inclusive infrastructure is estimated to only increase construction costs by 1-3%. Also, a social clause in public procurement may also be used to promote the employment of persons with disabilities, where appropriate, in line with CRPD article 5.4 (on achieving substantive equality) for instance by favoring companies which hire meaningfully persons with disabilities above the existing quota.

CIP has been collaborating with Equals CPSJ in Tamil Nadu and the Pacific Disability Forum, continuing work initiated with the International Disability Alliance. Supporting DPOs in engaging in budget analysis and advocacy at local and national level is critical for implementation of the CRPD and inclusive SDGs. Experience with DPOs so far have shown that it is of utmost importance, beyond numbers, that DPOs must have a clear and common understanding of what kind of policies and services would significantly contribute to CRPD implementation so that they can frame the data collected in budget analysis and their subsequent demands.

For further elements, please consult our discussion paper prepared with Polly Meeks.

[1] United Nations, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [accessed 20 July 2018]

[2]  http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2011/9789240685215_eng.pdf P.65.195.214.267.275

[3] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 3, Center for Economic and Social Rights, 2012, The OPERA Framework.