5.4 PRS and disability
Until now no PRSP has contained an adequate disability dimension, even though people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable and prone to poverty. In fact, they are locked in a vicious circle of poverty, causing bad health, disability and further impoverishment (see Chapter 6). However, the participation of DPOs and organisations working in the field of disability is necessary, as only these actors are able to change the focus of action concerning disability to meet their real interests. A recent study conducted by a World Bank consultant (see Bonnel, 2005) has revealed that when DPOs had the possibility to participate in and contribute to the PRSP, the economic dimension was mostly focused on.
People with disabilities face exclusion at various levels of the PRS approach, of which three main shortcomings can be identified:
1. PRSP Sourcebook
The PRSP Sourcebook rarely considers people with disabilities, and when it does, it is inconsistent. People with disabilities are mostly restricted to the category of social protection and considered as being economically inactive or as welfare cases. On the other hand, statements on inclusive education and with regard to transport and communication make it clear that the surrounding conditions and the environment have to be changed in order to include people with disabilities in society more successfully. In short, the Sourcebook lacks a clear understanding of the term “disability”, and indeed the terminology used is at times obviously prejudicial: people with disabilities are addressed as “the disabled” at a number of points. In the Sourcebook people with disabilities are often included in other vulnerable groups, a fact that risks overlooking the special exclusion mechanisms or special needs that these groups require. Such groupings might be helpful in explaining main tendencies, but do not result in appropriate analysis and solutions. Ideally, the chapter on “Cross-cutting Issues” should include a specific section on disability.
2. Lack of participation
People with disabilities rarely participate in consultations for the formulation and preparation of the PRSP. DPOs are seldom able to participate in any stage of the process, as they usually lack the necessary capacities and connections. (For the general constraints for civil society participation, see above.) DPOs and organisations working in the field of disability face the same limits, but very often in an intensified form: the process, for example, is even more non-transparent for people with impairment, as the information is not provided in an accessible format (e.g. Braille or sign language).
3. PRSP documents
Most PRSPs do not address people with disabilities in a comprehensive way. PRSPs contain mainly vague formulations for policy measures, and suggestions are often selective and do not include the wider context. It is not enough that disability issues are mentioned in the PRSP itself: they must also be included in the action plan or policy matrix, which sets the priorities of the PRS. Furthermore, these measures must be considered in the budget, and all related instruments such as the PRGF, PRSC, CAS or the progress reports, as otherwise they will be omitted from day-to-day policy, and resources will be scarce. Given the lack of data available, and keeping in mind the fact that there is little understanding of disability and of the situation of people with disabilities, the latter are often treated as a homogeneous group, or simply subsumed in the huge group of “vulnerable persons”. The main characteristic of members of this group is their inability to work, so the solutions proposed concern only social protection. Little attention is paid to the various types of disability and the differences in terms of living situation – for example, disability is never mentioned in the context of rural development.
Disability and Development Team / René Bonnel (2004): Poverty Reduction Strategies: Their Importance for Disability.
ILO (2002): Disability and Poverty Reduction Strategies: How to Ensure That Access of Persons with Disabilities to Decent and Productive Work Is Part of the PRSP Process. Geneva, November.
Klugman, Jeni (ed.) (2002): A Sourcebook for Poverty Reduction Strategies, Volume 1: Core Techniques and Cross-cutting Issues, and Volume 2: Macroeconomic and Sectoral Approaches
GPDD Working Group on Disability and Poverty Reduction: http://www.stakes.fi/sfa/disabilityandpoverty