The COVID-19 crisis has magnified the significant barriers and inequalities faced by persons with disabilities all over the world. Everywhere the lack of accessibility of information and essential services, including health care, has put persons with disabilities at greater risk.
In high-income countries, while extensive social protection mechanisms allow for mitigating the impact of the crisis, an overreliance on residential care institutions has led to dramatic outcomes for many persons with disabilities, especially among older persons. In addition, in most Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), a lack of support services and the low coverage of social protection schemes have severely limited the capacity of central and local governments to support persons with disabilities.
Even before COVID-19, low levels of public resources were allocated to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in most LMICs. Simply maintaining pre-crisis spending will thus be insufficient to prevent their impoverishment and further marginalization. For instance, while recent global estimates consider that a basic universal disability benefit would require an average 0.5% of GDP investment in LMICs, less than ten LMICs invest more than 0.3% of GDP on disability-related social protection compared with an average 1.4% of GDP for high-income countries (OECD).
An inclusive recovery will require both increasing public resources dedicated to social protection and support services as well as ensuring that all public funds across sectors are spent in an inclusive way.
However, as governments’ relief expenditures and loss of revenue due to lockdown increase public deficit and debts, there is a significant risk of fiscal consolidation and political decisions leading to austerity measures that would hit persons with disabilities as it did in high-income countries after the 2008 financial crisis.
The recent UN Secretary-General policy brief calls for COVID-19 response and recovery that “have a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.” It also calls for “National and sub-national economic models and assumptions need to be critically reviewed to identify gaps that disproportionately impact persons with disabilities and take into account the cost of underinvestment in disability-inclusion”.
Ensuring that in the new normal, governments spend more and better for inclusion will require strong advocacy by DPOs. To support their engagement, a first manual has been developed with several DPOs of Asia-Pacific which presents their experience in budget advocacy, and some key lessons learned. A second manual is being prepared to provide further insight and guidance on technical issues related to budget analysis and advocacy.
While this initial document was developed before the crisis, its objective has never been more relevant. We hope that it will be a source of inspiration and will support leaders of the movement to engage further with governments and other civil society coalitions to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery contributes to more inclusive, equitable and progressive mobilization and use of public resources.
 ILO 2019. Calculations are based on the payment of a periodic disability benefit at 100 percent of the full national poverty line, granted to persons with any severe disabilities.
 Development pathways, 2019, Leave no one behind: building inclusive social protection systems for persons with disabilities.
 OECD, 2020, Public spending on incapacity (indicator). (Accessed on 10 February 2020). The figure has been calculated by subtracting OECD average expenditures related to sickness from the OECD average total public expenditures on incapacity
Daniel Mont is co-founder of the Center for Inclusive Policy. He has extensive experience in the area of disability and inclusive development in research, operations, and capacity building, having worked for many years with the World Bank but also with a wide range of other international development agencies, governments, academics, and civil society organizations.