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Human rights

Inclusion of persons with disabilities – a key principle in Germany’s development policy


Boys with club feet in a hospital of Dar Es Salam, Tanzania.

In the past, people with disabilities were not always able to benefit from de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion projects. This was partly due to the fact that they are often amongst the poorest of the poor and thus generally difficult to reach. Another reason is that they tend to be excluded from society, which can potentially mean that de­vel­op­ment projects lose sight of them too. They can only participate in such projects if a conscious effort is made to incorporate their rights and needs into the de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion agenda.

It was this fact that prompted the Federal Ministry for Economic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (BMZ) to publish its own action plan – the "Action Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities" – in 2013. The aim is to put the necessary mechanisms in place over the next few years for the concerns of people with disabilities to be systematically mainstreamed into de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion work.

The BMZ's approach has two strands. One is to support projects specifically aimed at people with disabilities. The other is to ensure that all other de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion projects include their concerns too and that the structural causes of social inequality are addressed.

The main areas for action are pov­er­ty reduction, human rights, education and vocational support, health, social protection, sus­tain­able economic de­vel­op­ment, rural de­vel­op­ment and transitional de­vel­op­ment assistance.

Social protection – an example

One of the most frequent factors that drive households in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries into absolute pov­er­ty is illness. Neither the sufferers, nor their families have the financial means to cover the cost of medical treatment. But, if that money is not available, an illness that is curable in theory can quickly turn into a permanent disability.

To counter this problem, Germany is supporting the establishment and expansion of social health insurance systems. The idea is to combine state-run systems with private insurance and com­mu­ni­ty-based microinsurance.

Another positive aspect of well-developed social protection systems is that they offer possibilities for job and income support. Those who are not fully able to help themselves can also be included in social protection systems and protected to prevent them sliding into complete pov­er­ty. Currently, Germany is working in Vietnam and Indonesia to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in social protection programmes.

Transitional de­vel­op­ment assistance – an example

Earthquake victim with lower limb prosthesis in Leogane, Haiti. Copyright: Ute Grabowsky/photothek.netPeople with disabilities are especially vulnerable during and following emergency situations (for example, violent conflict or natural disasters). So it is im­por­tant that emergency and transitional assistance measures are explicitly designed to cater for their needs.

Following the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, Germany provided support for the construction of temporary accommodation, which was modified in line with the specific needs of disabled people. Germany is currently carrying out a de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion project to rebuild the nation's sources of livelihood. This project is also enabling Haitian disabled people's associations to play more of a role in the coun­try’s reconstruction.

Inclusive education – an example

Kindergarten in Santiago de Chile. Copyright: Thomas Köhler/photothek.netWorldwide, less than 10 per cent of children with disabilities go to school. Of all children of primary school age who do not attend a school, roughly one third have a disability. Often, disabled people's low level of education causes them to be excluded from the job market and permanently relegated to the margins of society. They are often unable to represent their social and political interests themselves.

To tackle these issues, the BMZ provides assistance for education that includes people with disabilities. In Chile, for instance, the National Board for Early Education received support to help it revamp its nursery system and make it accessible to children with special needs, especially those from poor families. The reform is concentrating on curriculum modification, staff training, training of assistants for inclusive early education, awareness-raising and knowledge-sharing. Efforts are being made to involve the families of disabled children in the reform process, alongside the educational institutions.

Accessibility in de­vel­op­ment projects

In de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion work, it is par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant that the projects themselves ensure accessibility. That means providing physical infrastructure that is accessible (for people with impaired mobility, for instance), but also accessibility in the form, for example, of information presented in such a way that blind or deaf people can use it. When planning projects and programmes, the BMZ analyses how the needs of people with disabilities can be taken into account. In Nepal, for example, the BMZ has supported the construction of schools fitted with ramps in rural areas.

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