Thanks again to CIP for this thought provoking question . There is indeed a clear gap between the policies and practices in disability inclusion. From the perspective of low and middle income countries ( LMIC) , the role of government is critical in translating these policies into action. As rightly mentioned by Leslie Swartz, LMICs do have excellent policy and legal frameworks and there is so much of quality research done and tools developed to support policy making processes. As seen in many developing countries, either the government do not use these tools or they are not properly administered resulting in poor evidence-based planning. To cite and example from Lao PDR which is one of the least developed countries, the government is preparing for conducting the next round of Lao Social Indicator Survey and there is no attempt made to collect data on children with disabilities using UNICEF Child Functioning Module . The reason behind this is that there is no budget made available for collecting disability data. So also for the next population census to be held in 2025 , though decision is being made to use WGSQs , there is no budget for training the enumerators on administering the questions and this is one of the reasons that despite using WGSQs in some of the LMICs , we notice that the prevalence of disability is lower when compared to other surveys conducted and notably by the NGOs.
Governments are constitutionally obliged to promote inclusive development and it becomes their primary responsibility to ensure disability inclusion. We need champions amongst the decision -makers in LMICs to promote disability inclusion by bridging the gap between policies and practices. We need persons with disabilities in the civil service so that they can lead the process of disability inclusion by putting into practice the policy and legal frameworks.
The national and sub-national legislatures have an important role here and we need legislature oversight over the executive so that policies developed for inclusion are being implemented. For instance , the national disability law of India has made provision for the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities to prepare an annual report on the implementation of the law and to be submitted to the parliament so that both the houses of the parliament debate and discuss the report regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. We need members of parliament to ask questions on the floor regarding disability inclusive policies and how they are being implemented.
UN is a technical partner to governments in LMIC and they have an equal share of responsibility to ensure governments put into practice policies for inclusive development. It is imperative that disability inclusion is practiced across all pillars of the UN system. I would like to quote Asako Okai, UN Asst. Secretary General and Director, UNDP Crisis Bureau “It is critical to embed disability inclusion across all our operations and programming: in leadership, in policy and programming, communications, and importantly, in how we as a UN system walk the talk as inclusive employers.”
Donor’s financing development projects need to have disability markers to ensure relevant projects/programs address the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities and their families. Key findings from Dan Walton’s paper https://devinit.org/776aef#section-1-1 indicate aid projects targeting disability inclusion was US$3.2 billion between 2014 and 2018, representing less than 0.5% of all international aid. Even the five most disability-inclusion-focused donors target just 3% of their aid to this purpose.
OPDs have a paramount role in transforming inclusive policies into action by their governments and other disability stakeholders. Their capacities have to be further strengthened to engage specially with the national and sub-national governments to promote disability -inclusive development. I would like to cite a good practice from one of the lead INGOs in Lao PDR extending support to OPDs to jointly organize an Annual Disability Policy Dialogue in which key ministries, UN entities, INGOs and Donor agencies came together to discuss disability inclusion in the national 5 year socio-economic development plan.
Last but not the least, it is interesting to note that LMICs that have a better compliance to rule of law have shown better results in reducing the policy -practice gap. There is also more scope for OPDs to amplify their voice in countries that have higher global ranking in terms of rule of law and to engage with government in realization of their rights .