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Poverty and Disability

Photo: Cover of a Hand Book


Making PRSP Inclusive
[PDF 3.9MB]
By Handicap International, Christoffel-Blindenmission
Also available in Français [PDF 2.6MB] and Português [PDF 7.9MB]

People with disabilities in developing countries are over-represented among the poorest people.  They have been largely overlooked in the development agenda so far, but the recent focus on poverty reduction strategies is a unique chance to rethink and rewrite that agenda.

Poverty causes disabilities and can furthermore lead to secondary disabilities for those individuals who are already disabled, as a result of the poor living conditions, health endangering employment, malnutrition, poor access to health care and education opportunities etc. Together, poverty and disability create a vicious circle.

One of the Millennium Development Goals is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, a goal that cannot be achieved without taking into consideration a group of people that is so disproportionately represented among the world's poorest people.

What are Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)?

At the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF (September 1999), it was agreed that nationally-owned participatory poverty reduction strategies should provide the basis of all World Bank and IMF concessional lending and for debt relief under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. This approach, building on the principles of the Comprehensive Development Framework, will be reflected in the development of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) by country authorities.

The most relevant papers on the relation between disability and the PRSP's are:

  • Making PRSP Inclusive
    [PDF 3.9 MB] by Handicap International and Christoffel-Blindenmission;
    Also available in Français [PDF 2.6MB] and Português [PDF 7.9MB]
  • 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
    [PDF 692KB] by International Labor Organization (ILO); and
  • Poverty Reduction Strategies: Their Importance for Disability
    [PDF 1.1MB] by World Bank (René Bonnel and Disability and Development Team).

The ILO discussion paper focuses on fields within the competency and mandate of the ILO, that is promoting opportunities for women and men, including persons with disabilities to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Nevertheless the report expresses key points in relation to disability and the PRSP process in general. Despite the fact that persons with disabilities in developing countries belong to the poorest of the poor and that the PRSP process might seem as their unique chance to be integrated in socio-economic development and poverty reduction initiatives, this has not proven to be the case. Except for a few cases, disability has not been addressed in any specificity in the I-PRSP’s completed so far. In paragraph 7 in the introduction to the paper ILO states:

“People with disabilities are of course included whenever PRSPs mention “vulnerable groups”, “marginalized groups of society”, or “disadvantaged groups”. But experience shows that whenever the specific exclusion mechanisms and specific needs of persons with disabilities are not explicitly identified, the related strategies and programs also miss their specific target. A category like “vulnerable groups”, though useful at certain levels of analysis, becomes an obstacle when it hides essential differences in poverty determinants of various vulnerable sub-groups and in strategies to apply. As we will see, these distinctions are essential even within the category of disabled persons themselves.”

What is a Country Assistance Strategy Paper (CAS)?

The Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) is the central vehicle for Board review of the Bank Group's assistance strategy for International Development Association (IDA) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) borrowers. The CAS document (a) describes the Bank Group's strategy based on an assessment of priorities in the country, and (b) indicates the level and composition of assistance to be provided based on the strategy and the country's portfolio performance. The CAS is prepared with the government in a participatory way; its key elements are discussed with the government prior to Board consideration. However, it is not a negotiated document. Any differences between the country's own agenda and the strategy advocated by the Bank are highlighted in the CAS document.

Disability has yet to become a separate component in a Country Assistance Strategy Paper. But ensuring that this will happen is a major part of the work within the World Bank to mainstream disability into development projects.

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Last updated: 2010-01-26

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