Looking back: the unsteady path towards inclusive development Policy

If international development actors and national governments are to embrace the promise of Agenda 2030 To Leave No One Behind, ensuring public policies and programs are truly inclusive is an obvious strategy.

If international development actors and national governments are to embrace the promise of Agenda 2030 To Leave No One Behind, ensuring public policies and programs are truly inclusive is an obvious strategy. Considering the diversity of understanding of the concept of inclusive development, or inclusive growth, it is worth revisiting the evolution of some of the theories and perspective that have underpinned development policies.

Early Models of Economic Development

Following World War II, due to considerations of political stability and the growing recognition of free trade as an engine of growth, the nations of the world transitioned to a more cooperative, trade-oriented approach to economic development, as evidenced by deals such as the Bretton Woods Agreement (Judt 2005, Piketty 2014). While the questions of who holds the power in and who benefits from these global systems have been hotly debated, GDP growth has historically been considered the primary metric of development success.

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Measuring cost of disability …

Researchers, advocates, and policymakers often cite statistics about the relative income of people with and without disabilities. The idea being that barriers to participation in the labor market limit the ability of people with disabilities to secure an adequate level of economic well-being. However, direct comparisons of income levels between people with and without disabilities can mask many of the factors and dynamics that influence well-being, leading to an underestimate of the well-being gap. This blog concentrates on one of these factors – the extra costs of living with a disability.

Poverty lines are drawn to represent a minimum level of well-being. Typically, they are based on the costs of an adequate diet plus other basic necessities. The problem is that people with disabilities have additional necessities. They often require assistive devices, personal assistance, additional medical care or transportation expenses, and more.[1] Without these things, even if they have the same level of income as a person without a disability, they have a lower level of well-being. A person with a disability at the official poverty line, in reality is living below the minimum level of well-being that that poverty line was meant to establish.

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Cost benefit vs. cost effectiveness

Advocates for inclusive policy are often asked to make the “business case” for inclusion, often being pressed for a cost-benefit analysis of various policies, since a cost benefit study attempts to estimate the dollar value of the benefits accruing to a program or policy relative to the costs of implementing it. In a world with limited resources, it makes sense that policymakers desire that resources are spent to provide the biggest benefit possible. However, there are several problems with the cost-benefit approach when it comes to evaluating inclusive policy.

Colloquially speaking, a cost-benefit analysis asks “What is the bang for the buck?” A major problem is how does one put a dollar value on human rights, dignity, sovereignty and other concepts? How does one even quantify such things in a meaningful way? How much is it worth to you to make decisions over your own life – your schooling, your career, your living situation, and even things as basic as when to go to the toilet? When people have various rights – say, the right to vote – do we question whether to spend money on very remote polling places is worth the cost, even if it probably won’t change the outcome of any election? No, the right of the individual to vote and the value of living in a fully democratic society are accepted in many places as fundamental. The same is true for the right for all children to receive an education, regardless of disability.

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