Development Cooperation

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How inclusive development cooperation can be a success

Eight years after the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) came into force, persons with disabilities have not become part of the mainstream in German development cooperation. Men, women and children with disabilities benefit far too little from German development cooperation. That is why the new Federal Government should give significantly more political weight in this field of policy to the implementation of the CRPD.  It should also adopt an effective strategy on inclusion for German development cooperation.

The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)) is following a two-tier approach to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities: (1) First, the rights of persons with disabilities must be considered in all projects (mainstreaming); secondly, Germany should commission projects which specifically promote persons with disabilities. In 2013 the BMZ put an action plan for the inclusion of persons with disabilities into effect to further strengthen this approach. This action plan was evaluated by the German Institute for Development Evaluation (Deutsches Evaluierungsinstitut der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (DEval)) at the end of its term.  (2) The evaluation came to a sobering conclusion.

DEval recommends the BMZ to press on with its efforts for mainstreaming and considers an adequate level of staffing to be necessary to do so. The BMZ should create a steering mechanism and the position of an internal contact person (focal point).  (3) In addition there is a need for improvement when compiling target group analyses. According to DEval these analyses have not provided any satisfactory insights into the diversity of persons with disabilities. Further, they should contain specific recommendations of how the results can be implemented.  (4)

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Recommendations of the UN Committee

The term of the action plan coincided with the assessment of Germany’s State party report on the implementation of the CRPD by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2015. The UN Committee expressed its concern regarding the lack of respect for the rights of persons with disabilities in the political concepts and programmes of the BMZ.  (5) It therefore recommended the creation of a monitoring and accountability framework about the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all programmes and projects. Further, it recommended the development of criteria that can contribute to an analysis of the implementation of these rights in order to improve control and measurability. Furthermore, the UN Committee advised Germany to introduce target figures in budgetary policy for the rights of persons with disabilities which would enable and support monitoring and reporting.  (6)

As a response to the report, the National Action Plan 2.0 of the Federal Government regarding the CRPD (NAP 2.0) contains various measures in the fields of development cooperation and humanitarian aid, as well as cooperation at the EU and UN level.  (7) All these measures are pointing in the right direction; however, the Federal Government is selective in its actions on the Concluding Recommendations of the UN Committee. It covers the recommendation to improve the data available, but not the framework for monitoring and reporting with suitable budgetary items or target figures. Overall the NAP 2.0 tends to contain soft measures and lacks aspiration and political objectives or the systematic enshrinement of the rights of persons with disabilities in Germany’s development cooperation.

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Greater involvement of persons with disabilities as actors

Persons with disabilities in all parts of the world are in part massively limited regarding social participation and often face almost unimaginable obstacles. These obstacles range from structural barriers through discrimination to a denial of participatory rights. Numerous laws and administrative regulations or practices discriminate or exclude persons with disabilities, for example when administrative regulations on infrastructure projects do not consider the needs of persons with disabilities. Many partner countries of Germany do not fulfil their obligations to remove these barriers, which the UN Committee and the UN Special Rapporteur  (8) on the rights of persons with disabilities make clear, citing numerous examples.

What can German development cooperation do in this situation so that persons with disabilities can benefit from the projects it supports? First of all, persons with disabilities should participate as actors in all development cooperation projects - this includes planning, implementation and monitoring. The participation of persons with disabilities in all matters which affect them is a core element of the CRPD, and at the same time is a guarantee for better, more targeted, and hence more successful development cooperation. In order for persons with disabilities to be able to participate, local disabled persons organisations must be strengthened and included in the processes of development cooperation such as appraisal missions, planning, implementation and project evaluation. The cooperation and capacity development of disabled persons organisations announced in NAP 2.0 must be implemented, for example through suitable aid instruments.

In order to enshrine the rights of persons with disabilities also in policies, more resources, clear instructions and management instruments are needed which define responsibilities and bring inclusion into the mainstream. A firmer foothold in the BMZ’s strategies is a necessary means: persons with disabilities must generally be given prominence and priority as a target group when developing strategies and in particular for the implementation of Agenda 2030 and in individual sectors.  (9)

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Donor countries and partner countries must implement their obligations together

Donor  and partner countries can only implement the CRPD together.  (10) This is also required by the CRPD. It is the first convention on human rights to contain a separate article which specifies the obligations of state parties in international cooperation (Article 32 CRPD). Obligations apply to donor and partner countries alike. For example, several Concluding Observations issued by the UN Committee underline the obligation of donor and partner countries to ensure that persons with disabilities and disabled persons organisations are consulted.

Donor and partner countries generally discuss and agree cooperation in intergovernmental negotiations and consultations. This is a suitable forum to exchange views on their mutual obligations under the CRPD and to come to an agreement to implement them through their concerted efforts. The relevant recommendations of the UN Committee and the Special Rapporteur should be used as a basis.

With the adoption of Agenda 2030 and the sustainable development goals (SDGs)  (11) itemised data collection has become a core concern for donor and partner countries. The SDGs are very clear: the priority in their achievement should focus on the people who are the furthest behind. In many countries of the world this group includes persons with disabilities. Partner countries should be supported to improve their statistical capacities so that they can collect data on disabilities, thus creating the necessary foundation for targeted implementation of the CRPD. Donor countries should also be able to clearly prove what percentage of their official development assistance (ODA) benefits persons with disabilities.

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Conclusion and recommendations

Men, women and children with disabilities benefit far too little from German development cooperation. While in Germany the participation of disabled persons’ organisations in the formulation of German development policy has certainly made good progress, the situation abroad is disappointing.
Therefore, the National CRPD Monitoring Mechanism recommends:

  1. The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) should place much greater importance on the implementation of the CRPD in German development cooperation than has been the case so far. This holds especially true with the formation of the new government.
  2. The BMZ should adopt an inclusion strategy within six months of determining a new management in 2018. With a view to the main objective of enshrining the implementation of the CRPD in Germany’s development cooperation, the strategy should contain the following measures (which could also be implemented independent of a strategy):
  • The number of projects for the targeted support of persons with disabilities should be increased. Further, the number of projects where persons with disabilities can be identified and included as the target and actor group should also be increased. Current instruments, such as target group analysis, must be adapted accordingly.
  • Incentives for financial and technical cooperation should be created. A target figure for the implementation of human rights, including the rights of persons with disabilities, can be a suitable means.
  • Regular reference should be made to the relevant recommendations of the UN Committee and the Special Rapporteur in government negotiations and consultations in order to bring about a constructive dialogue with partner countries on concerted implementation of the CRPD.
  • The rights of persons with disabilities should be addressed systematically and approaches defined for their implementation when revising strategies for suitable sectors and countries.
  • The ratio for allocation of funding should be reviewed so that the financial contributions to implement the CRPD are recorded. Funding to NGOs should be reviewed to ensure that disabled persons organisations are not faced with obstacles when submitting an application.

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1 The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)) (2013): action plan to include persons with disabilities (2013-2015). Bonn/Berlin, P. 8 The duration of the action plan was extended to 2017.
2 German Institute for Development Evaluation (Deutsches Evaluierungsinstitut der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit) (DEval) (2017): Evaluation of the action plan of the BMZ on the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Bonn.
3 DEval (2017), l.c., P. 106
4 DEval (2017), l.c., P. 100
5 UN, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2015): Concluding observations on the initial report of Germany, 13 May 2015, UN Doc. CRPD/C/DEU/CO/1, para. 59.
6 UN, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2015), l.c., paragraphs 59 and 60.
7 Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales (BMAS)) (2016): "Our path to an inclusive society". The National Action Plan 2.0 of Germany's Federal Government for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). (accessed on 24.11.2017). P. 182
8 UN, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2016): Report on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 9 August 2016, UN Doc. A/71/314,, para. 58.
9 It should be noted that the relation of Agenda 2030 to the CRPD is that its implementation also includes implementation of the Agenda, even while the optimum achievement of the Agenda’s goals cannot conclusively satisfy the requirements for the rights of persons with disabilities deriving from the CRPD. The CRPD demands more of countries than does the Agenda and because of its binding legal nature it remains the most important benchmark of human rights.
10 Donor countries are countries which provide money for development which institutions in partner countries use to implement the corresponding projects.
11 UN, General Assembly (2015): Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, UN Doc. A/RES/70/1.

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