Submission to the International Development Committee of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by the Disability Rights Fund


About DRF: who we are, and our relationship with FCDO

1.       We are the Disability Rights Fund (DRF); an international organization dedicated to resourcing organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean. Through grant making, advocacy, and technical assistance, we support them to use human rights and development frameworks to address inequality and achieve rights and inclusion.

2.       DRF is the only global intermediary fund exclusively focused on disability, and the largest financial supporter of organisations of women with disabilities. Our participatory approach centres persons with disabilities and their leadership at all levels of our work and governance. Since launching in 2008, we have supported 436 organisations across 40 countries to advance nearly 1,800 rights campaigns through grants totalling more than £35 million.

3.       We are a reliable ally of FCDO in advancing UK’s foreign aid commitments as signatory to the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD). We contributed substantively to the development of FCDO’s 2022-2030 disability inclusion and rights strategy, facilitating the participation of persons with disabilities from the Commonwealth and the broader Global South, and we are a valued partner in its implementation.

4.       FCDO was one of our first donors, contributing over £13 million since our inception. These funds allow millions of disabled people in Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and many other countries to participate in local, national and regional policy processes alongside governmental counterparts, as well as internationally, through human rights compliance reviews at the UN. FCDO-funded grants contribute to the inclusion of disabled people and promote their leadership across the political, cultural and economic life of society.


Why are we participating in this inquiry?

5.       Funding for disability inclusion globally has been remarkably sparse, even before the budget cuts affecting FCDO: Grants to organizations of persons with disabilities amount to less than 2% of the global human rights funding[1]. This is awfully inadequate, particularly if we consider that people with disabilities, estimated to be about 16 percent of the global population, are disproportionately affected by poverty, marginalisation and stigma.

6.       In this context, FCDO’s leading role in promoting disability inclusive development is fundamental. Its funding is the lifeline of organizations that are indispensable for achieving FCDO strategy’s key outcomes--namely Rights, Voice, Choice, and Visibility--and the broader goal of including disabled persons in all aspects of economic and social development. This is why we are highly concerned about the impact of ongoing ODA cuts, which further erode the already insufficient international support to the sector.


A. The impact of ODA cuts

7.       DRF grants are vital to support the movement of people with disabilities for their rights. The importance of this movement was highlighted during the COVID 19 global crisis by the failure of States to implement disability-inclusive responses, which exacerbated the catastrophic impact of the pandemic among people with disabilities[2]. Today, DRF’s grants to support this movement are compromised by the budget cuts affecting FCDO, and by the rollbacks from other key donors underpinning the movement[3]. The impact of these rollbacks is further aggravated by global inflation, already rendering current grant ceilings inadequate for the needs of grassroots organizations in Africa and other priority regions.

8.       Current budget cuts run contrary to the assessments and recommendations of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI): In its 2018 Rapid Review of DFID’s approach to disability in development[4], the commission noted that only two of the ten programmes reviewed involved substantial engagement with OPDs, noticing that both were funded by DRF. Subsequently, they suggested increasing funding to DRF to advance the participation of organizations of people with disabilities across FCDO’s planning and implementation continuum.

9.       Organisations of persons with disabilities are facing difficulties to carry out advocacy requiring longer term planning. In addition to funding shortages, the one-year limit to grant cycles make cross-movement building processes virtually impossible. As a result, setbacks are felt in critical areas such as disability-inclusive emergency responses, climate resilience and adaptation, prevention of violence against women and girls with disabilities, and promotion of gender equality. Our recent external evaluation indicates the need for consistent funding and multi-year grants to allow the stability that this long-term work requires.


Cuts on research, learning and impact assessment.

10.   Recent cuts of up to 25% of the 2023 budget for Capacity Building limit our ability to conduct learning exercises and independent evaluations. These are critical to understand the impact and effectiveness of funding approaches, the projects funded, as well as of the technical capacity of grantees. Exercises such as the recently conducted evaluation on DRF’s 2019 – 2022 activities, the 2023 annual grantee survey, or the impact assessment of our technical assistance strategy may not be possible in the coming years without FCDO’s support.


Monitoring Global Disability Summit commitments.

11.   The United Kingdom’s role spearheading the Global Disability Summit is highly commendable. Since the first GDS in London in 2018, an unprecedented number of commitments has been adopted by governments and international donors on disability inclusion. DRF awarded 35 grants for a total of £1.26 million, to 22 organizations of persons with disabilities in Africa, Asia, and the UK to monitor progress on their implementation. Grassroots advocacy supported through this fund gave way to important wins, such as the ambitious GDS commitments adopted by the Government of Malawi.[5] However, since FCDO budget cuts, we were unable to continue funding monitoring of commitments, including those adopted at the last GDS, held in Norway in 2022.

B. FCDO approach to partnership with OPDs.

12.   FCDO has made important progress incorporating people with disabilities and their organizations across its planning and work implementation. However, its reporting and administrative requirements, while burdensome even for sophisticated organizations like DRF, can become unsurmountable barriers for grassroots groups. FCDO’s administrative requirements should factor in the different levels of capacity within those groups, to ensure that technical requirements do not end up excluding them.

13.   Transparency and accountability when spending taxpayers’ money is of paramount importance. FCDO can achieve this more effectively by focusing reporting requirements on quality assessment over costly quantitative analyses that often fail to capture the true impact of the work funded. In addition, streamlining administrative processes and reporting will make for more efficient use of staff and money, freeing up resources currently dedicated to redundant tasks. This will benefit grassroots groups working under difficult conditions, which at times include criminalized minorities, allowing them to focus their efforts on their irreplaceable work in the community.


Suggestions on other topics included in the inquiry:

14.   FCDO is uniquely positioned to not only mainstream disability across the UK’s ODA portfolio, but also encourage other countries to do so, by leveraging its leadership in multilateral platforms such as the OECD and in the UN system, where it played an outsized role promoting the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS). We suggest the following concrete steps:

15.   Ensuring co-design and co-delivery with organisations of persons with disabilities when developing policy and programs.

16.   Adopting data collection practices designed to increase knowledge about persons with disabilities. These include prioritizing persons with disabilities as focus population, collecting data on disabled migrants, refugees and among the internally displaced, and including lead researchers with disabilities in research design.

17.   Implementing the OECD-DAC Disability marker to measure disability inclusion in UK’s international cooperation and humanitarian action, and promoting its use by all other OECD members.

18.   Improving the coordination between FCDO and British High Commissions and embassies around the world, to mainstream disability and accessibility across country programming and operations.

19.   Further advancing the UK’s commitment to promote disability inclusion globally, by increasing the country’s contribution to support the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy.

20.   Setting clear targets for disability inclusion across ODA portfolios, including investments in social protection systems, and ensuring that people with disabilities are represented in accountability mechanisms at all levels of FCDO.

21.   Increasing FCDO’s central disability allocation annually, to ensure that mainstreaming activities across ODA portfolios are adequately complemented with specific allocations for organizations representing the diversity of people with disabilities.

[1] An example of this inadequacy is the 2019 global funding to gender equality. Out of a total annual funding of

[2] The Global Disability Rights Monitor exposed States’ failure to adopt disability-inclusive responses, and the repercussions of those failures in the short, medium and long term.