FCDO and disability-inclusive development – Written evidence submitted by the UN World Food Programme to the House of Commons International Development Committee

 

Introduction

  1. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation saving and changing lives in emergencies and building resilience. 80 percent of persons with disabilities globally live in countries where WFP works. In 2020, WFP’s Executive Board approved the WFP disability inclusion roadmap (2020-2021) which supports the implementation of the Secretary-General’s 2019 United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS) and WFP’s obligations regarding disability inclusion (DI). The roadmap kickstarted WFP’s progress against the UNDIS, supported by funding from the governments of Australia and Finland.

 

  1. The ultimate vision of the roadmap and subsequent yearly workplans is to embed the work on disability inclusion fully within WFP’s mandate. This will combine mainstreaming efforts to improve disability inclusion in all aspects of WFP’s work as well as targeted actions to address the specific risks and barriers facing persons with disabilities, recognising that their experiences are diverse and risks and can be compounded for some groups due to the intersectional discrimination based on gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, and other identities. The vision also supports a rights-based approach towards disability inclusion aligned with the General Principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

 

  1. In 2019, during the initial presentation of the UNDIS results by WFP, all fifteen indicators outlined within the UNDIS framework were absent. Yet, through a determined and coordinated endeavour to bridge this gap, the year 2021 witnessed the acknowledgement of WFP as a "pioneering agency in the effective execution of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy." Fast forward to 2022, and WFP stands with all fifteen indicators incorporated, having achieved a strong level of attainment – meeting (at 60 percent), exceeding, or approaching each one. Furthermore, WFP submitted five core commitments at the Global Disability Summit in 2022.

 

  1. The present submission seeks to examine the adequacy of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s (FCDO) new disability inclusion and rights strategy (henceforth referred to as the ‘Strategy’) as a framework for approaching disability-inclusive development, and the role of the UK in disability inclusion within the global humanitarian and development community.

Context

  1. Persons with disabilities constitute 16 percent of the world’s population, representing the world’s largest minority[1]. As such, DI is critical to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the ambition to leave no one behind. Despite this, persons with disabilities face barriers to full social and economic inclusion and are frequently overlooked in humanitarian and disaster response and development programmes. The exclusion and marginalisation that persons with disabilities frequently experience intersects with and can be compounded by discrimination due to gender identity, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, origin, location, and legal status, among others. WFP welcomes FCDO’s commitment to DI, as articulated in the Strategy; building on its vision for a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable future, FCDO should strive to mainstream an intersectional lens across the breadth of its portfolio.

FCDO’s Strategy as a framework for approaching disability-inclusive development and the UK’s role in DI within the global humanitarian and development community.

  1. FCDO’s framework for approaching disability-inclusive development is grounded in a twin-track approach which, if sustained, is an important basis for achieving equal access and full inclusion. WFP also seeks to adopt a twin-track approach to mainstream DI across all other areas of work while striving to employ targeted disability-specific approaches where possible[2].

 

  1. The UK has demonstrated continued commitment to DI globally, with the inception of DFID’s first Disability Framework in 2014, the UK’s co-hosting of the first Global Disability Summit, and DFID’s first Disability Strategy in 2018. FCDO and WFP are both active members of the Disability Advisory Group which works to strengthen DI in the humanitarian programme cycle, including in the development of humanitarian needs overviews and humanitarian response plans. FCDO’s ambitious Strategy further cements the UK’s leadership on this agenda.

 

  1. The present submission focuses on four of the intervention areas articulated in the Strategy (Advancing universal human rights, freedom and democracy; Achieving inclusive health for all; Building inclusive social protection systems; Delivering inclusive humanitarian action), as well as the emerging intervention area (Inclusive climate action), highlighting aspects where the Strategy could be strengthened and enhanced UK action and leadership could be leveraged. The UK must protect the gains made on disability-inclusive humanitarian action and ensure that these phase into longer-term considerations to empower and transform the lives of persons with disabilities.

 

 

Advancing universal human rights, freedom and democracy

  1. WFP strongly welcomes FCDO’s ambition for all persons with disabilities to have full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, be able to participate fully and effectively in society on an equal basis and have the personal freedom to make informed choices in their own lives.

 

  1. WFP welcomes FCDO’s engagement through the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) network, of which WFP is also a member, and encourages FCDO to use this to continue to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. WFP notes that the UK has pledged to fund the GLAD network to March 2024[3] and encourages FCDO to consider extending funding beyond this horizon to sustain the international momentum behind the Disability Rights Movement.

 

  1. While the Strategy indicates that this intervention area is aligned with FCDO’s ‘Rights’ outcome, it is important to ensure equal alignment with the ‘Choice’ outcome. The equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms requires people to know and understand their rights and how they work in practice. Accessible communications on rights and entitlements often bypass persons with disabilities and should be tailored to their specific needs. It is imperative that information, education, and communication materials on rights and entitlements use approaches, channels, and methods that effectively reach and are clearly understood by persons with disabilities, their families, and their communities, including by building on existing community-based solutions and partnerships with organisations for persons with disabilities (OPDs).
     

Achieving inclusive health for all

  1. The intervention area on achieving inclusive health for all should give greater focus to the link between nutrition and disability and the importance of inclusive nutrition programming for persons with disabilities. Malnutrition and disability are inherently linked, with the former both a cause and a consequence of the latter, and with persons with disabilities at increased risk of being malnourished.

 

  1. Malnutrition can contribute to disability; at numerous points throughout the lifecycle, malnutrition can cause or contribute to a variety of different physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental health disabilities. For example, maternal malnutrition (macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies) before and during pregnancy can increase the risk of the infant being born prematurely, heightening the risk of physical, neurological, and/or cognitive impairments. At the same time, disability can increase the risk of malnutrition; individuals who are born with or acquire a disability often face significant issues related to nutrition. Causal pathways by which disability contributes to malnutrition depend on the type and severity of the disability and contextual factors. These could be medical; anatomic, motor/mechanical, or sensory; educational, environmental, attitudinal, and socio-cultural; and institutional resulting in poor dietary and caregiving practices. The intersectionality of multiple inequalities or disadvantages related to gender, age, race, ethnicity, geography, and other factors can increase the risk of adverse nutrition outcomes for persons with disabilities.

 

  1. Disability-inclusive nutrition services and programmes, and related activities, can reduce nutrition risks faced by persons with disabilities. They can also act as entry points to address, and in some cases, avoid or prevent disability. The UK is well placed to contribute to progress on disability-inclusive nutrition programming as a global leader on both nutrition and disability inclusion.

 

  1. FCDO should continue to contribute to and strengthen the currently limited global evidence base on the impact of specific approaches to ensuring persons with disabilities are reached through nutrition programming. Persons with disabilities are largely invisible within mainstream nutrition programming data, making it difficult to discern the extent to which programming is disability-inclusive, and there is a general lack of evidence on how different types of disabilities impact on nutritional outcomes. Similarly, there is a lack of evidence on nutrition programming in humanitarian settings and effective approaches to reach persons with disabilities with nutrition programming in these contexts. UK support in this area would be significant.

 

  1. The available evidence suggests there is a lack of both disability-specific and disability-inclusive nutrition programming in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Similarly, there is limited evidence to suggest that the nutritional needs of persons with disabilities are recognised in policy and programming. FCDO should systematically integrate consideration of disability in food and nutrition programmes and target disability-specific food and nutrition support directly where needed, to accommodate individual disability-related requirements. For example, WFP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific is in the process of creating and publishing a guide on Disability Inclusive School Feeding to enhance understanding of the links between school feeding and DI and to provide entry points to help address the barriers experienced by children and young persons with disabilities, and their families, when interacting with school feeding programmes.

 

  1. It is imperative that future nutrition policy and programming recognise and plan for the malnutrition-disability link and ensure resources are made available and action is taken to address these issues. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the development of nutrition policies and programmes is key. WFP has produced guidance on inclusive nutrition programming for persons with disabilities and stands ready to work with FCDO in this area.

 

Building inclusive social protection systems

  1. Inclusive social protection systems can play a crucial role in addressing the persistent disability gap and enabling the full participation of persons with disabilities in society. However, globally, only one-third of people with severe disabilities receive specific support from social protection systems and this support is often inadequate[4]. There is a strong correlation between coverage and a country’s income status, with 86 percent coverage in high-income countries compared with 11 percent in lower-middle-income countries and 9 percent in low-income countries[5]. As LMICs build or expand their national social protection systems, there is an urgent need to prioritise persons with disabilities in line with the CRPD, thus FCDO’s priority to build inclusive social protection systems is important.

 

  1. The Strategy could benefit from a stronger focus on the use of cash transfers and the need to extend cash transfers in LMICs to support persons with disabilities. Having led the agenda on cash-based transfers and as a longstanding and strong advocate for the use of cash transfers, the UK should continue to support progress on this agenda. Social protection systems are often constructed with a narrow focus on providing a minimum income replacement based on an ‘incapacity to work’ rationale. This rationale fails to recognise the diversity of barriers and costs undermining the participation of persons with disabilities across the lifecycle and how cash transfers, as part of a social protection system, are critical for income security and the coverage of disability-related costs. A shift from a one-size-fits-all approach is necessary, moving disability from being equated with an incapacity to work towards recognising individual needs, abilities, and barriers[6]. In Kenya, WFP is supporting the County Government of Wajir with a disability cash transfer programme that aims to boost income security and the well-being of persons with disabilities. Recognising the importance of this safety net, WFP – with funding from the Government of Sweden – supported the Wajir County Government to draw up the Persons Living With Disability Bill, which was passed in September 2021. WFP provided technical and financial support to the county, convening and facilitating the policy formulation process[7].

 

  1. In addition, the Strategy should consider emerging evidence on the “additional cost” of disability which is typically not factored into the minimum expenditure basket calculations used to calculate cash transfer amounts. WFP is piloting disability-inclusive cash-based transfer projects. For example, in 2022, WFP implemented a 6-month cash top-up pilot for persons with disabilities; combined with an assessment on food security and nutrition needs. In Myanmar, this is particularly critical as households including persons with disabilities have higher levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, rely more on negative coping strategies, have higher expenses, and have lower incomes than other households. WFP’s top-up yielded positive outcomes, with 90 percent of respondents sharing that it brought a positive change to their household. WFP extended the duration of the cash top-up and is expanding the pilot geographically to a third region in 2023.

 

  1. WFP welcomes FCDO’s ambition to improve the systematic collection and use of disaggregated data and knowledge regarding inclusive social protection, as the lack of data in this area remains a considerable challenge. Data collection often falls short in supporting DI efforts, hindering the development and adjustment of effective schemes for persons with disabilities[8]. WFP has identified this as a key principle to enable the successful mainstreaming of DI[9]. High-quality data is crucial for the design, monitoring, and evaluation of disability-inclusive social protection policies and programmes.

 

Delivering inclusive humanitarian action

  1. In 2022, an unprecedented 247 million people needed emergency humanitarian assistance, of which 41 million were persons with disabilities, therefore delivering inclusive humanitarian action is critical[10].

 

  1. WFP welcomes FCDO’s commitment to ensuring humanitarian response efforts deliver on inclusion in crises, however, we would encourage a stronger focus on the challenges for disability-inclusive humanitarian action in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Conflict can have a disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities; this is the case for civilians in conflict zones, for those fleeing conflict, and for those in post-conflict situations or dealing with the aftermath of conflict. The UK is well-positioned to drive progress in this area, having co-led Resolution 2475 on Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Conflict, the first-ever UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on DI in armed conflict which calls for action to ensure persons with disabilities have access to unimpeded humanitarian assistance in conflict settings[11]. Similarly, the UK can leverage its position as Penholder of the Protection of Civilians agenda in the UNSC and co-chair of the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative to accelerate progress on facilitating disability-inclusive humanitarian action in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

 

  1. The Good Humanitarian Donor Initiative published a study on the use of earmarked funding for DI in humanitarian action in June 2022, focusing on WFP, UNHCR, and ICRC. The study concluded that donors and organisations should work towards ensuring a sufficient priority level for DI in organisations, mainstreaming DI in different sectors, ensuring systems are in place to report on DI results in all operations (including reporting expenditure), and resourcing of DI (both in terms of human resources and ensuring focal points have the time and budgets allocated for implementation, particularly at regional and country-levels). Through these elements, humanitarian aid will be more accessible for persons with disabilities[12].

 

  1. An important part of this effort is the need to identify and collect relevant and accurate data on persons with disabilities affected by armed conflict, in line with FCDO’s commitment to continue to build the capacity of humanitarian actors to incorporate disability data into the humanitarian programme cycle. WFP has made significant progress towards inclusive humanitarian action in fragile contexts – for example, WFP Afghanistan is currently leading a disability study and cash top-up pilot project in Herat, a province that was selected due to its high prevalence of disability amongst the population and strong partnerships with organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs). In 2023, WFP Afghanistan was elected by the UN as co-chair of the Disability Inclusion Working Group.

 

  1. The Strategy rightly notes the importance of promoting the routine, systematic collection, and use of data on the impact of crises and humanitarian action on persons with disabilities to inform humanitarian programming and policy. WFP strongly supports this approach with its focus on inclusive qualitative and quantitative data collection at the front-end of humanitarian programming to ensure persons with disabilities are not excluded[13]. Effective programming needs to be informed by the scope of the challenge it is meant to address. Hence, the collection and analysis of data disaggregated based on disability is critical. WFP and Trinity College Dublin have developed an evidence-informed approach to the use of data for disaggregation with five criteria that can support decision-making as to whether to disaggregate by disability, using the Washington Group Short Set of Questions[14].

 

  1. Ultimately, inclusion requires funding. WFP is already facing an unprecedented funding shortfall of 60 percent against operational requirements of USD 25.1 billion in 2023, and humanitarian needs continue to rise in the face of multiple, compounding crises. We need to tackle the systems that exclude and better prioritise interventions that reach the furthest behind, and this inevitably requires funding. FCDO does not currently fund WFP’s work on DI.

 

Inclusive climate action

  1. FCDO’s addition of inclusive climate action as an emerging intervention area is significant since persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis – as the Strategy rightly notes. However, given that tackling climate change is identified as the UK’s number one international priority in numerous strategies and policy papers and over 40 percent of the global population already lives in areas highly vulnerable to climate impacts, WFP encourages FCDO to invest further in inclusive climate action, adjusting the Strategy to define this area as a key intervention area.

 

  1. Globally, persons with disabilities are more likely to live in climate-vulnerable areas. 80 percent of persons with disabilities live in LMICs, which are more likely to be severely affected by the climate crisis, including through its physical impacts and the costs associated with climate adaptation[15]. Within a given country or region, persons with disabilities are often among those most impacted by and at risk from the accelerating impacts of the climate crisis, sustaining disproportionately higher rates of morbidity and mortality following climate disasters, and being frequently excluded from emergency preparedness plans[16]. At the same time, the climate crisis is likely to increase disability prevalence through physical injuries and psychosocial impacts because of climate disasters, food insecurity and malnutrition, and air pollution[17].
  2. As part of this intervention area, WFP encourages an approach which moves away from focusing exclusively on vulnerability to the climate crisis, towards one which recognises the unique capacities of persons with disabilities to contribute to and shape climate action. Persons with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to climate action, however, they can offer knowledge, skills, and resources to help build the resilience of societies and communities. It is important to reiterate that persons with disabilities are not a homogenous group; multiple and intersecting factors can further heighten their climate vulnerability and adaptive capacity.

 

  1. Disability tends to be under-represented in the data used to plan, mitigate, respond, and adapt to climate risk, often resulting in inaccessible interventions that prevent persons with disabilities from accessing vital information and services. Vulnerability assessments often do not consider disability or ensure the participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, which is crucial for informing appropriate and disability-inclusive approaches. This results in inaccessible climate adaptation and disaster response. FCDO should continue to emphasise the need for disability-disaggregated data and disability-inclusive vulnerability and needs assessments to mitigate the impacts of climate-related disasters.

 

  1. As noted above, persons with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, in the wake of climate disasters. FCDO’s approach to disability-inclusive climate action should include a focus on supporting national governments to embed DI into national disaster risk reduction (DRR) and Anticipatory Action (AA) systems and programming to help mitigate the impacts of disasters and build resilience. Currently, there is an absence of DI perspectives in DRR, resulting in a lack of accessible environments, information, and services[18]. The international community is increasingly recognising the link between disaster and disability, with key global and regional policy frameworks highlighting the need for disability-inclusive DRR. For example, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) calls for actions to meaningfully engage persons with disabilities in all stages of DRR and responses. The involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in the DRR assessment and planning phases at the community level is an important first step to enhancing disaster preparedness and response[19]. Furthermore, the UK should support governments to link DRR with shock-responsive social protection systems. As noted above, inclusive social protection systems are fundamental to achieving progress on the DI agenda. However, the climate crisis threatens to disrupt social protection systems and/or change the mix of schemes that is feasible and effective – which can have particularly acute impacts for persons with disabilities – at a time when the need for robust, quality, and inclusive social protection systems is heightened. FCDO should lend its expertise in this area to support governments in climate-vulnerable countries to ensure social protection systems are shock-responsive, disability-inclusive, and linked to DRR systems.

 

  1. WFP welcomes the focus on inclusive resilience in the Strategy. Persons with disabilities face significant barriers to developing resilience to the climate crisis; for example, they are less likely to have access to the financial assets needed to adapt and respond to climate shocks[20]. Despite this, there is limited evidence available on how to effectively strengthen the climate resilience of persons with disabilities. The UK is well-placed to leverage its leadership and expertise in areas such as climate and disaster risk financing to ensure more inclusive approaches to climate resilience. For example, persons with disabilities are more likely to be unable to afford insurance premiums given that they experience poverty at more than twice the rate of persons without disabilities and will therefore require subsidised support to have equal access to climate risk insurance instruments[21]. FCDO has initiated progress in this regard, evidenced in its Independent Evaluation of the African Risk Capacity (Pilot Impact Country Study: Senegal, 2021) in which it recommended that ARC and its country and Replica partners should continue to explore ways to consider various marginalised groups, including persons with disabilities[22].

Conclusion

  1. Disability inclusion is a critical component in collective efforts to achieve Agenda 2030. The UK has been a longstanding champion of the DI agenda, and the publication of the Strategy only serves to cement the UK’s key role in this area. While the Strategy reflects FCDO’s high level of ambition on disability inclusion and rights, there are areas where it could be strengthened, and actions WFP recommends the UK consider delivering on its ambition.

Recommendations:

      To achieve its ambition to advance human rights, freedom, and democracy, FCDO should maintain its engagement through the GLAD network and consider extending its funding of this important forum beyond 2024. FCDO should also consider the importance of inclusive and accessible communications in the context of realising rights and entitlements.
 

      The Strategy should address the link between nutrition and disability, including how FCDO can contribute to progress on disability-inclusive nutrition programming and the global evidence base in this area.
 

      Building on FCDO’s strong contribution to inclusive social protection, the Strategy could benefit from a stronger focus on the use and expansion of cash transfers in LMICs to ensure social protection systems recognise individual needs, abilities, and barriers.
 

      In line with FCDO’s commitment to inclusive humanitarian action, WFP encourages a stronger focus on DI in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, including supporting humanitarian organisations to collect accurate disaggregated data in these contexts and engage persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in these efforts.
 

      WFP hopes inclusive climate action will become a key intervention area. WFP encourages the UK to invest resources in disability-inclusive DRR, Anticipatory Action, and resilience-building, including by linking shock-responsive social protection systems to disaster risk management and response approaches.
 

      Inclusion requires funding. Notwithstanding the fiscally constrained environment, WFP encourages FCDO to invest financial resources in DI to achieve sustainable progress.

 

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[1] World Health Organization. (2022). ‘Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities’. Available here.

[2] World Food Programme. (2020). ‘WFP disability inclusion road map (2020-2021)’. Available here.

[3] Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. (2022) ‘Global Disability Summit 2022: new UK development commitments to progress the FCDO’s work on global disability rights’. Available here.

[4] International Labour Organisation. (2021) ‘World Social Protection Report 2020-2022’. Available here.

[5] ibid

[6] Cote, A. et al. (2023) ‘Towards inclusive social protection systems enabling participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities’. Available here.

[7] World Food Programme. (2022). ‘Kenya: How cash grants empower people living with disabilities’. Available here.

[8] ibid

[9] World Food Programme. (2021) ‘Update on the WFP disability inclusion road map (2020-2021)’. Available here.

[10] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2021) ‘Global Humanitarian Overview 2022’. Available here.

[11] United Nations Security Council. (2019) ‘Resolution 2475 (2019)’. Available here.

[12] Good Humanitarian Donorship. (2022). ‘Brief on the GHD Study: Everyone’s business – Use of unearmarked funding for disability inclusion in humanitarian action’. Available here.

[13] Trinity College Dublin is a key partner for WFP, which looks at developing an evidence base for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in WFP programming. This global partnership seeks to understand, implement and evaluate inclusive actions to achieve our commitments to disability and inclusion.

[14] World Food Programme. (2022). ‘Disability Data: An evidence-informed approach to the use of disability disaggregated data in WFP programming;. Available here.

[15] World Health Organization. (2011) ‘World Report on Disability’. Available here.

[16] United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2020) ‘Analytical study on the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of climate change’. Available here.

[17] Lee, H. et al. (2020) ‘Climate resilience and disability inclusion: mapping and rapid evidence review’. Available here.

[18] United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. (2015) ‘Disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction’. Available here.

[19] ibid

[20] Lee, H. et al. (2020) ‘Climate resilience and disability inclusion: mapping and rapid evidence review’. Available here.

[21] Bond Disability and Development Group & Climate Action Network UK. (2016) ‘Disability inclusion in UK climate action’. Available here.

[22] Oxford Policy Management. (2021). ‘Independent Evaluation of the African Risk Capacity. Pilot Impact Country Study: Senegal’. Available here.