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Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Persons with Disabilities

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expand the vision of international development by promoting Human Development as the key to sustaining social and economic progress in developing countries. The MDGs are a collective partnership for development among international organizations and represent a framework for measuring development progress. The eight Goals and their related targets not only identify gains needed but quantify them for measuring improvements in people's lives. The MDGs are meant to be reached by 2015.

How Disability Relates to the MDGs

Although not explicitly mentioned within the MDGs, inclusion of persons with disabilities is implied.

Number 1Eradicate Hunger and Poverty

Due to social exclusion and discrimination in the labor market, persons with disabilities may be disproportionately affected by unemployment, leading to an increased incidence of poverty. Additionally, family members acting as caretakers may be unemployed, healthcare costs related to having a disability may be high, and families whose head of household is disabled are more likely to be poor.

Number 2Achieve Universal Primary Education

Empirical evidence indicates that children with disabilities have less access to education than others. [1] According to UNESCO, "of the 75 million children of primary school age who are out of school, one-third represents children with disabilities." [2] Only with the inclusion of children with disabilities is universal primary education achievable by 2015.[3]

Number 3Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Women and girls with disabilities face a "double discrimination" that is based not only on their gender but also their disability. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women with disabilities are less likely to attend primary or secondary school, and are less likely to gain access to rehabilitation programs and vocational training. [4] Furthermore, being disabled increases their vulnerability to violent and abusive behaviors by others.

Number 4Reduce Child Mortality

A mother's lack of access to health services during her prenatal stage increases the chances that her child will be born with a disability. Likewise, the lack of access to health services for the disabled child, directly after birth and as it matures, increases its risk of premature death. Social exclusion caused by intense stigma further increases a disabled child's risk of death before the age of five.[5]

Number 5Improve Maternal Health

A woman with disabilities has less access to public health information and care during the prenatal stage of pregnancy and is at greater risk of long-term complications as a result. Obstetric fistula is a disabling outcome that is particularly stigmatizing.[6]

Number 6Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases can, in and of themselves, be disabling. Efforts to halt these epidemics should directly target persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are at increased risk for contracting these diseases due vulnerabilities stemming from their isolation and exclusion. [7]

Number 7Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Ensuring environmental sustainability (i.e. access to water and proper hygiene and safety conditions) is critical in preventing many types of disabilities. For example, many forms of visual impairment are caused by degenerative illness resulting from contaminated water.

Number 8Develop a Global Partnership for Development

The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) presents an opportunity for increased international cooperation on issues related to disability and development, as called for in its article #32. By harmonizing efforts and sharing experiences a more unified, global approach to improving the well-being of persons with disabilities may be attained.


[1] UNESCO, Education for All - Monitoring Report 2010, EfA Global Monitoring Team, Paris, 2010. Peter Coleridege, et al., Study of Disability in EC Development Cooperation, Draft Interim Report, Soges, S.p.A., May 31, 2010, pg., 25.

[2] See UNESCO Inclusive Education website. Link to external site

[3] UNESCO, Education for All - Monitoring Report 2010, EfA Global Monitoring Team, Paris, 2010.

[4] ILO, The Rights to Decent Work of Persons with Disabilities, Geneva, November 2007, pgs. 49-50. See also the Expert Group Meeting on Mainstreaming Disability in MDG Policies, Processes and Mechanisms: Development for All.

[5] Thomas, Philippa. Disability, Poverty and the Development Millennium Goals: Relevance, Challenges and Opportunities for DFID, Disability Knowledge and Research, DFID, 2005, pg. 8.

[6] Ibid, pg 8; See also United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) website. Link to external site

[7] Groce, Nora. HIV/AIDS and Disability: Capturing Hidden Voices. The World Bank/Yale University Global Survey on HIV/AIDS Disability, World Bank, 2004.

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Last updated: 2010-07-02




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