July 16, 2015
"It's a sad truth that in many developing countries people with disabilities simply don't count. No data is collected on their disabilities nor their abilities, so it’s as if they just don’t exist…."
— Former UK parliamentary undersecretary for the Department for International Development (DFID) (quoted in the Guardian)
Recognizing that, to date, development goals have not been reached because people at the margins have not been included, the concept of "leave no one behind" has been a key part of the post-2015 development process. Among those left behind have been people with disabilities who, until the publication of the first World Bank/World Health Organization World Report on Disability in 2011, were not specifically enumerated among the world's population.
As it turns out, people with disabilities make up an estimated one billion people around the world. That is 15 percent of the world's population, or one in every seven people. Further, children with disabilities are the single largest group excluded from school, making up 30 percent to 40 percent of the out-of-school population according to UNESCO. Women with disabilities are 40 percent more likely to be victims of domestic violence than other women, and 20 percent of the poorest people in the world are people with disabilities.
Despite these dire statistics, most countries in the developing world either do not count their populations with disabilities or do not use standardized methods to do so, meaning that official data on persons with disabilities and the conditions they live in is poor or absent.
Until recently, this was also the case among human rights funders and human rights organizations. Disability — considered a charity or medical issue — was not delineated as a human rights concern. Indeed, it was only in 2010, following the implementation in 2008 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that even as formidable an advocate as Human Rights Watch started systematically reporting on rights abuses against persons with disabilities.
Thus, when the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center initiated a project in 2010 to map global human rights grantmaking, I was excited that the project would include people with disabilities among the recipient populations to be tracked. For the first time, people with disabilities would be listed as a population of concern for funders making human rights grants.