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How well is aid targeting disability?

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The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of people worldwide have a disability.[1] People with disabilities in developing countries face significant challenges, both in terms of increased risks (of poverty and social exclusion, for example) compared with other populations, and unique burdens such as the costs of care.[2] One key mechanism for improving the living standards of people with disabilities is international aid, known as official development assistance (ODA).

In the upcoming release of 2018 ODA data (in December 2019), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) will introduce a mechanism for monitoring aid that is ‘disability relevant’ – earmarked for the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities.[3] This ‘disability marker’ will ask donors to report whether empowering or promoting inclusion of people with disabilities is the primary or secondary purpose of an aid project. However, the mechanism will be applied only from 2018 onwards; and it is difficult to quantify historical ODA targeted to assist and empower people with disabilities based on existing data.

What we did

Development Initiatives (DI) has developed a keyword methodology that identifies international aid projects with policy components relevant to people with disabilities, so that we can understand how much ODA has been spent on such projects based on current and historical data. The methodology applies multiple sets of keywords and phrases to project records to identify those targeted directly or indirectly at people with disabilities.

Our methodology matches that which the OECD will bring in, categorising aid projects according to whether they have a primary or a secondary disability component. It further classifies disability-relevant projects according to their particular focus on one or more of two areas:

  • Inclusion and empowerment projects have a focus on ensuring people with disabilities are included in benefits on an equal basis to people without disabilities.
  • Economic empowerment projects are a subset of inclusion and empowerment projects that have the deliberate purpose of improving employment opportunities and rights for people with disabilities.

Projects that don’t focus on these areas are classified as ‘other’.

What we found

Our analysis suggests that since 2012, just 0.1% of all international aid has been allocated to projects with a primary disability component (Figure 1). Even when we included projects with a secondary objective of assisting or empowered people with disabilities, spending totalled between 0.3% and just over 0.5% each year. The total volume of all disability-relevant aid in 2012 was $593 million; by 2017 this rose to US$750 million.