BOND Disability and Development Group: International Development Committee Inquiry Submission On FCDO and Disability Inclusive Development 2023 

Acronym List

Climate Change Conference (COP)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP)

Development Assistance Committee (DAC)

Disability and Development Group (DDG)

Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy 2022 to 2030 (DIRS)

Disability Inclusive Development (DID) programme 

Equality Impact Assessment (EIA)

Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO)

Global Disability Summit (GDS)

International Development Committee (IDC)

International Development Strategy (IDS)

International Women and Girls Strategy (WGS)

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 

Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs)

Overseas Development Aid (ODA)

Safeguarding Resource and Support Hub (RSH)

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)

Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) programme
United Nations (UN)


The BOND Disability and Development Group (DDG) brings together over 110 UK-based development organisations – both mainstream and disability-specific – to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are included in the UK development and humanitarian sectors. They represent a large body of experience based on direct work with people with disabilities, their representative organisations, and the disability movement in low- to middle-income countries, as well as advocacy and policy engagement with service providers and policymakers globally. The organisations represented in the DDG were surveyed to assist in our response to this Inquiry. DDG has a strong relationship with the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) Disability Inclusion Team, and welcomes this opportunity to support them, the wider FCDO, and the International Development Committee’s (IDC) endeavours to ensure a stronger, more inclusive future for all. 

Executive Summary

This submission is over 3,000 words and therefore includes an executive summary.

The Bond DDG have highlighted the following recommendations in the executive summary: 

Overview Summary.

There is much to celebrate a decade after the 2013 IDC inquiry into the UK Government's approach to disability in development: the 2014 Disability Framework, the UK hosting the Global Disability Summit (GDS) in 2018, and the 2019 inquiry assessing the UK’s progress on disability inclusion. However, major challenges remain: COVID-19 (see here), global conflict, and climate change (see here) disproportionately affect people with disabilities. FCDO’s 2021 and 2023 Equality Impact Assessments confirmed the devastating impact of Overseas Development Aid (ODA) cuts on people with disabilities, with nearly 90% of DDG members who responded to our survey reflecting that the UK’s leadership on disability inclusion has been weakened in recent years.  

State of Play

People with disabilities make up approximately 15-16% of any population, and are estimated at 1.3 billion people globally, projected to double by 2050. People with disabilities on average experience poverty at more than twice the rate of persons without disabilities, and are disproportionately impacted (up to two to four times) by climate change. Women with disabilities face greater exclusion, with up to 70% experiencing sexual abuse before 18 years of age. Children with disabilities are twice as likely never to attend school, three times more likely to be underweight, and four times more likely to experience physical violence. It is estimated that there are over 240 million children with disabilities worldwide, with one in six children experiencing significant disability. UK leadership on disability inclusion in development – with concrete action and funding – remains critical. 

Q1: The adequacy of FCDO’s new disability and inclusion rights strategy as a framework for approaching disability-inclusive development.


  1. It is vital that disability inclusion is recognised as a human rights issue and a key component to all future UK Government strategies, reports, interventions, and delivery plans which, in all circumstances, must reference, acknowledge, and seek to implement FCDO’s Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy 2022 to 2030 (DIRS).
  2. The DIRS Delivery Plan must be public and developed with organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) with tangible indicators that have clear baselines, milestones, and numerical targets, as well as full transparency and data on funding allocations, and must be backed by the necessary funding, personnel, and expertise to implement.
  3. The UK Government and Ministerial leadership – particularly the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for International Development – should be vocal, proactive champions for disability inclusion in every setting they find themselves in. 

In 2022, the DDG welcomed the DIRS, which demonstrates ambition to deliver real change by meaningfully engaging people with disabilities and OPDs. The strategy recommits to ‘Leave No One Behind’ and acknowledges, to some extent, the role of intersectionality where disability combines with other forms of exclusion (including on the basis of gender, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity) to limit full participation in economic, social, and political life. It recognises the increased risk of violence faced by women and girls with disabilities, alongside fewer educational and employment opportunities, and commits to expand into climate change and health.

Despite this, 95% of DDG members who responded to our survey do not feel confident that FCDO will deliver the commitments made in the DIRS and GDS22.

If these commitments are to serve as an effective, long-term framework, it is necessary to have fit-for-purpose funding not subject to harmful cuts; adequate people resources; and an open, and transparent delivery plan – 100% of DDG member organisations who responded to our survey believed the DIRS delivery plan should be published. The delivery plan must be developed, as promised in the DIRS, with people with disabilities and OPDs who know their local context; include baselines, indicators, targets, and timelines; and ensure that existing inequalities between different groups are not exacerbated. Whilst the External Disability Board provides a good foundation for accountability, a much wider and transparent mechanism outside this small group must also be founded, alongside investment across all FCDO services and policies. 

It is hugely disappointing that the DIRS is not referenced in FCDO’s International Women and Girls Strategy (WGS), published a year later in March 2023 – especially given their intersecting nature. This is alongside the complete lack of recognition by the UK Government in either the 2022 International Development Strategy (IDS) or 2023 Integrated Review Refresh. Neither mention disability, or have observable strategies on eradicating extreme poverty (which impacts people with disabilities disproportionately) and improving the lives of the most marginalised. Whilst the FCDO Annual Report and Accounts 2022-23 mention the WGS, IDS, and International Technology Strategy setting “a clear, long term direction for the future,” there is no mention of the DIRS, even within its report on Priority 3, Women and Girls.  

Q2: The adequacy of FCDO’s spending on disability-inclusive programmes and the impact of cuts to ODA programmes on people with disabilities.


  1. All future Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) should be conducted and published transparently to provide accountable decision-making that ensures UK Government funding is positively impacting persons with disabilities. 
  2. Beyond EIAs, FCDO must conduct and publish analysis to understand whether cuts to mainstream programmes have disproportionately impacted people with disabilities and take action to reverse any negative trends. 
  3. Disaggregated data should be collected and utilised to support evidence-based budget allocation to support people with disabilities and an updated Inclusive Data Charter action plan published.
  4. The return to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA is critical to meeting the UK’s ambition on disability inclusion, particularly in addressing its impacts on the poorest and most marginalised people. 
  5. A minimum of 15% of ODA should be allocated specifically to disability inclusive development, to reflect the population share.
  6. As the IDC inquiry into extreme poverty report has noted, trickle-down development is unreliable and people with disabilities rarely benefit. It is essential that ODA spending reaches people with disabilities; consider the specific and complex needs of persons with disabilities; and monitor whether ODA is reaching the most marginalised. 

Over 70% of DDG members who responded to our survey did not feel adequately supported by the UK government to include persons with disabilities in FCDO funded work, and a lack of available data is holding FCDO back on progress towards adequate spending on disability inclusive programmes.

FCDO should ensure effective use and reporting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) gender and disability markers to analyse how much ODA is both gender-equitable and disability-inclusive. This will ensure impact can be understood and ODA allocated equitably. 

As the 2022 and 2023 EIAs have shown, large ODA reductions have had a severe and disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. There have been significant reductions in the number and size of targeted programme activities aimed at women, girls, and people with disabilities, with alarming examples of impacts on groups with protective characteristics.

Disability specific and mainstream programmes have been negatively impacted. A list has been provided to the IDC on how devastating the cuts have been to a large number of programmes that were providing specific support to people with disabilities in poverty-affected areas. Significant cuts happened across all areas, with cuts to:

FCDO’s flagship Disability Inclusive Development (DID) programme also received significant annual budget cuts from 2020 to 2024. These have required the A+ rated programme to close projects early, slow down implementation, and cut research and learning activities. It is critical that FCDO rebuilds the trust and credibility that has been broken with partners due to the continuous requests to re-plan and re-budget. To do so it will be important to provide ODA that is consistent, reliable, and long-term. 

Q3: FCDO's work to encourage and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities, and relevant advocacy groups, in developing its strategy and approach. 


  1. Create a platform in which OPDs are meaningfully engaged in the work of FCDO, supporting their autonomy and increasing capacity through adequate funding and co-production. This should be amongst a wide range of OPDs, including women-led and youth-led OPDs, OPDs representing LGBT+ people, refugees with disabilities, and people with disabilities who may be more marginalised (including people with psychosocial disabilities and mental health conditions).
  2. The DIRS must take into account the invaluable contributions of children and youth with disabilities, including the potential for youth-led OPDs to co-design and deliver real change as disability human rights advocates and changemakers.  
  3. All programme delivery must have FCDO funding, procurement, and accountability mechanisms that ensure people with disabilities, OPDs, and activists will always be able to meaningfully participate with increased access to opportunities and resources.
  4. FCDO should strategize with UK OPDs on how to collaborate with OPDs based in the Global South. This will cultivate mentorship, experience sharing, learning, and networking.
  5. The FCDO’s internal guidance on engaging OPDs should be published and be mandatory for sector specific disability rights training and programme delivery for headquarters and country office staff. 

DDG welcomes efforts made by FCDO to encourage greater inclusion of people with disabilities in their policy and programming, which includes the highly commendable new internal guidance on meaningful engagement with OPDs. However, inclusion of OPDs in FCDO policy and programming is still wholly inadequate. It is imperative that greater prioritised support is immediately provided across a wide range of OPDs, with the internal guidance being mandated and publicly available. 

There have been pockets of good progress on engaging OPDs on policy and programming. For example, FCDO’s consultation with OPDs in the Global South during the development of the DIRS, the publishing of internal guidance on engaging OPDs for FCDO posts and missions, and the voice given to youth with disabilities in the GDS18. However, evidence has shown that problems remain with FCDO’s infrastructure and institutional barriers – notably accountability and disjointed relationships between FCDO central and posts – meaning that sustained and ‘meaningful’ engagement has not borne out in practice. So far OPDs have not been included in the development of the DIRS delivery plan, despite a commitment to do so, and DDG members report a lack of meaningful engagement with youth with disabilities since 2018. 

Q4: The extent to which other ODA-spending departments are ensuring that their ODA expenditure is inclusive of people with disabilities. 


  1. The FCDO should encourage, influence, and support effective reporting of the OECD DAC disability markers across all ODA-spending departments.
  2. Qualitative analysis should be conducted on the largest ODA spenders outside FCDO to assess the extent to which their work is disability inclusive (including assessing against disability inclusive safeguarding standards), and this analysis should be made public.
  3. The FCDO should oversee the majority of ODA spending given the expertise and experience that DFID had in delivering ODA equitably.

Currently the OECD DAC indicates that when compared with FCDO, other UK Government departments are reporting much less of their ODA as disability inclusive, or are not using the marker at all – only a quarter of overall spending across all UK ODA has a disability element. There is limited public-facing evidence on disability inclusion work done by other ODA spending departments. Interactions with other ODA-spending government departments by DDG members have suggested a need to improve awareness and understanding of the DIRS, the OECD DAC marker, and disability-inclusive safeguarding within programmes planning and budgets.

While other government departments can play a key role in delivering ODA, when relevant to their areas of expertise, the FCDO is the only place where staff have the knowledge and expertise to deliver safe, disability-inclusive programmes. 

Q5: The role of the UK in disability inclusion within the global humanitarian and development community.


  1. The UK Government must take the lead on being a champion for disability-inclusive climate change action.
  2. As a supporter of the Grand Bargain (which commits to more support and funding tools for local and national responders), ensure that OPDs are included/recognised as part of the commitment to multi-year investment in the institutional capacities of local and national responders and advocate for the consistent implementation of the IASC guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. 
  3. Increase the ambition of the DIRS delivery plan to not only hold the international humanitarian system to account on inclusion, but to commit to concrete, sustained support and investment to effectively integrate disability systematically into the humanitarian system. 
  4. The FCDO should identify disability champions in the Humanitarian and Migration Directorate and appoint at least one FCDO Humanitarian Adviser with a disability-inclusion specialism to better equip FCDO spokespersons participating in decision-making in global humanitarian communities to advocate for disability inclusion.
  5. Through bilateral, multilateral, and research spend the FCDO should influence global partnerships for programmes in education, health, and climate to include explicit targets to include persons with disabilities in proportion to population size. 

FCDO must use diplomatic leverage to influence development and humanitarian actors to prioritise disability inclusion across all sectors, especially in fragile, climate, and conflict-affected contexts.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, but people with disabilities and OPDs have been ignored and their requirements not taken into account. Whilst the DIRS recognises this as an emerging area, action needs to be taken now by the UK Government to lead the way and encourage all governments to promote disability-inclusive climate action globally. 

Delivering inclusive humanitarian action is one of the six key intervention areas in the DIRS. To do this the FCDO must champion a stronger understanding of the nuances of fragility, the development-humanitarian nexus, and how the most marginalised persons must be involved in tackling solutions. 

A 2020 IDA survey found that whilst participation by OPDs within humanitarian action is improving, it is still inadequate and financial support remains the biggest challenge for OPDs to exist as representative organisations. Women, men, boys, and girls with disabilities have been routinely denied their rights to protection and accessible humanitarian assistance, and are overlooked in the peace and recovery processes. 

The UK Government and FCDO has an important role to play in pushing for both country-based pooled funds and the global Central Emergency Response Fund to be managed in ways that promote disability inclusion whilst also holding fellow donors to account.

The FCDO can also do more by ensuring disability-inclusion expertise in staff resources and promoting the guidance on making multi-sector needs assessments and pooled funding allocations disability-inclusive across its cadre of humanitarian advisers. The inclusion of people with disabilities and older people is at best sometimes left to later stages, or at worst resulted in their exclusion within a response. 

The UK can do more to ensure persons with disabilities are represented in the programmes global development communities deliver in partnership. For example, the FCDO is supporting education in 100 countries worldwide, primarily through non-UK led programmes such as the Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait. We know one in five women live with a disability, therefore the UK should demand these programmes reach this proportion of girls with disabilities within their targets. 

Q6: Safeguarding issues within disability inclusion should be prioritised in FCDO’s work tackling sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.


  1. FCDO should leverage its global leadership in disability-inclusive safeguarding influencing networks such as the GLAD Network, in order to encourage strict adherence to inclusive safeguarding standards in ODA spending.
  2. FCDO should lead by example and routinely embed disability-inclusive safeguarding principles in due diligence, reporting requirements, and quality standards for all FCDO funded work, including disability-inclusive safeguarding audits in British International Investment spending, and promoting inclusive safeguarding in other ODA spend departments.
  3. FCDO should invest in formal and informal social protection systems for persons with disabilities – particularly women and children – recognising that strengthening these local protection systems is vital in tackling sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.
  4. FCDO should lead on efforts towards deinstitutionalisation, as globally it is estimated that one in three children in institutions is a child with disabilities.
  5. Disability-inclusive safeguarding should address all form of abuse and harmful practices including forced marriages, child marriages, female genital mutilation, and witchcraft accusations, and collate data to inform and improve safeguarding measures.

Commendably, the UK Government has demonstrated interest in disability-inclusive safeguarding through funding Able Child Africa and Save the Children’s Disability-inclusive Child Safeguarding Guidelines; their assurance to ‘pay specific attention to safeguarding people with disabilities’ in the DIRS; and the development of key disability-inclusive safeguarding resources through the FCDO-funded Safeguarding Resource and Support Hub (RSH).

Despite this interest, there is inconsistency between the guidance FCDO has funded and its own internal practice. There is only one reference to disability in the FCDO’s Safeguarding Due Diligence for external partners; UK Aid grant holder guidance or reporting requirements do not emphasise the importance of reporting on the extent to persons with disabilities were kept safe in delivery; and the cost per beneficiary analysis which formed a crucial part of DFID’s 2019 Approach to Value for Money discouraged grantees from including budget to fully safeguard persons with disabilities.

Furthermore, 92% of DDG members surveyed reported that the approach the FCDO took to cutting programmes was unsafe for persons with disabilities and over 75% reflected that persons with disabilities were more at risk following the cuts. Abrupt cuts to programmes did actual harm to these populations, damaging existing social protection systems and leaving them more exposed than before.

Q7: FCDO’s learning from other approaches and global work on disability inclusion.


  1. To capitalise on the learning and evidence produced by the Disability Inclusion Helpdesk, and to understand better how Helpdesk products impact FCDO's global work, we recommend both ongoing Helpdesk funding alongside a review of FCDO’s uptake of the evidence and technical support provided by the Helpdesk, in order to maximise the potential reach and benefits of Helpdesk evidence to the wider global development community.
  2. FCDO should commit to ongoing funding to the GLAD Network beyond March 2024, while reviewing and strengthening the impact potential of GLAD.  
  3. Greater visibility of disability-inclusive development being championed by the FCDO Disability Inclusion Team, other FCDO teams, as well as other UK Government departments at key global events (the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or COSP; United Nations (UN) General Assembly; and UN High Level Meetings, including the health and Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] Summit), alongside integration of disability inclusion into all global summits including Transforming Education, the G7, and UN Climate Change Conference (COP).  
  4. To conduct a learning review focused on mainstreaming to guide FCDO’s future work on disability inclusion. 

FCDO’s Disability Helpdesk helps FCDO staff obtain up-to-date learning on disability inclusion, tailored to support internal decision-making. It is a cornerstone of the FCDO’s evidence-based approach to disability inclusion, and has proved a model for other organisations – such as UN agencies – and other grantmakers have either established or are pursuing their own Helpdesks. Through the Helpdesk, FCDO has made an investment in promoting uptake of learning and evidence, both in their work and outside of their constituency, through making evidence and tools publicly available. It will be important to consider how this support and influencing will be continued after the end of current programming, in order to realise the potential for extending the reach and benefits of Helpdesk evidence to the wider global development community.

FCDO provides funding for the GLAD Network Secretariat as part of the FCDO’s Disability Capacity Building Programme. GLAD’s Working Groups provide valuable forums to cultivate and share FCDO learning, including emerging areas, and there is great potential that can be harnessed from the network and working groups. At the GDS22, the FCDO committed to fund the GLAD Network until March 2024. 

The UK Government must be a champion for disability inclusion across all forums, both disability and non-disability focused. This must extend beyond the Disability Inclusion Team and FCDO to other departments, and must include all global summits, such as UN High-Level Political Forums, the UN General Assembly, the UN SDG Summit, COP, CoSP, GDS, and the Summit for Democracy. Sharing expertise is required across all key sectors, such as education, health, democratic governance, and humanitarian response. FCDO has been an important champion for the education of girls with disabilities. It is essential that learning and expertise now influences efforts to achieve SDGl 4, to follow up from the Transforming Education Summit 2022 on disability-inclusive education. 

Learning from mainstreaming of issues beyond disability inclusion (i.e., the mainstreaming of HIV in global health) as well as cross learning from the FCDO Equalities team will provide valuable insights for FCDO’s global work on disability inclusion; we are unaware of any such learning conducted by the FCDO. 

One of the main components of the DID programme is generating evidence, research, and learning on what works and doesn’t for disability inclusion. These were among areas which were forced to be scaled down following ODA budget cuts, and need to be restored with funding and resource allocation. 

Q8: FCDO’s progress in implementing the Committee’s previous recommendations, and the commitments made at the Global Disability Summit.


  1. The DIRS Delivery Plan should align with and include indicators for all GDS commitments, with clear baselines, milestones, and numerical targets, as well as information about funding allocations.
  2. The FCDO should use its leverage with the GDS Secretariat to ensure the accountability mechanism for global commitments is meaningful, effective, and transparent . 

There is a lack of urgency and understanding of the scale of work needed by the FCDO to deliver on the GDS commitments and IDC recommendations. 

There is also a lack of consistency between the DIRS and GDS commitments. Many commitments made at GDS22 are absent from the DIRS and need to be fully referenced in the Delivery Plan, including to embed results tracking disaggregated by disability, the use of the Washington Group of Questions across all new activities, and ensuring an inclusion focus on reporting. The UK Government’s GDS22 commitment stated that the WGS ‘will ensure that women and girls with disabilities are meaningfully embedded across key priorities and mutually reinforces the 2022 FCDO Disability Inclusion Strategy.’ However, the WGS fails to mention the DIRS at all. 

The IDA Reporting Mechanism has not made reporting on 2023 commitments available at the time of writing, meaning UK progress on GDS commitments is unknown.  

The cumulative budget cuts will also seriously comprise progress towards many of the GDS commitments and recommendations of the IDC, such as the commitment to extend the WISH programme to work with OPDs.

Q9: Other areas not covered but need to raise.


  1. The DIRS references the Approach and Theory of Change to Mental Health and Psychosocial Support several times, yet there has been no meaningful action on it since publication. FCDO should engage with the Bond Mental Health and Psychosocial Disability subgroup, who was involved in the Approach and Theory of Change, to act on this without further delay.
  2. Resources must focus on tackling stigma and discrimination experienced by persons with psychosocial disabilities and promote their active participation.   

We welcome FCDO’s commitment to the rights of persons with psychosocial and mental health conditions, and including the support for their meaningful participation in all policies, programmes, and as part of engagement with OPDs and crisis response. Evidence attests to the immediate and long-term benefits of mental health and psychosocial support for the most vulnerable children and adolescents, as it increases their resilience and protects them from negative coping mechanisms amidst crises and climate change. However, without appropriate contextualisation of activities around those of differing abilities, gender, and ethnicity, the benefits of these approaches will be limited. 

BOND DDG Evidence

  1. BOND Disability and Development Group Submission to the UK International Development Committee inquiry on aid cuts
  2. BOND DDG: Disability inclusion in UK climate action
  3. BOND DDG’s response to International Development Strategy
  4. DFID Public Inquiry (2013) - Disability Framework
  5. BOND DDG’s Written Submission to DFID Public Inquiry (2018)
  6. FCDO Disability Inclusion Helpdesk Reports
  7. Bond DDG submission to International Development Committee inquiry on DFIDs work on Disability

Helpful Links: 

  1. FCDO has published summary papers on development partnerships with individual countries, which in most cases include information on how much (proposed) bilateral ODA is marked as principally or significantly focussed on disability inclusion. 
  2. International Development Committee reveals real world impact of cuts to UK aid - Committees - UK Parliament -2023
  3. 2023 EIA
  4. Government obstructing scrutiny after misleading MPs on impacts aid cuts have on women and girls - Committees - UK Parliament - 2022 
  5. Extreme poverty and the Sustainable Development Goals (