Development stakeholders who wish to access funding from the World Bank will have to prove that their programmes benefit or have no harm on the persons with disabilities, once the bank completes reviewing its policies.
The bank has apparently commenced a process of reviewing its environment and social safeguards policies to mitigate risks associated with its investments. This is a very positive development that will go a long way towards mainstreaming disability issues and, eventually, improving the plight of PWDs.
The process, when concluded, will ensure that developing countries such as Uganda adhere to international instruments it signed up and ratified to promote the rights of PWDs as enshrined in the UNCRPD.
This would also address the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number one, which looks at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. The bank, for instance, says disability and poverty are inextricably linked. Poor infrastructures create barriers to inclusive development, malnutrition and lack of adequate healthcare leads to disability conditions.
War and conflict in many developing and transition countries result in a higher number of people with disabilities due to violence and trauma. Disability affects approximately one billion people around the world, with a majority living in developing countries. The current development patterns indicate that a great many PWDs still live at the sidelines of the world's resources - which reflects the level of exclusion of PWDs in development programmes by development partners.
This exclusion hinders the rights of PWDs, and subsequently opportunities, to benefit from national programmes, including those intended to reduce poverty. Cognizant of these development impediments, the bank, together with other stakeholders is working to reverse this trend by ensuring its environment and social safeguards policies reflect the aspirations of PWDs.
Consequently, the Bank Information Centre (BIC) and the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU) have spearheaded the Disability and World Bank Safeguards Campaign with the goal to ensure that the World Bank Safeguards adopts a systematically inclusive approach to its engagement in developing countries. This implies that the Bank's beneficiaries who don't meet such requirements may not access funding.
However, the campaign will require working with civil society organizations and disabled people's organisations to achieve the set objectives. Three institutions have been selected to handle the campaign in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For Africa, National Union of the Disabled Persons of Uganda (Nudipu) is leading the campaign; Nudipu will first start the campaign in Uganda, before reaching out to other countries.
Nudipu's key outputs will include identifying potential local partners of DPOs and civil society organizations; mobilising partners to effectively and strategically engage with World Bank operations; Nudipu will also work with the partners to enhance their technical capacity and knowledge of World Bank lending and investment projects in Uganda.
Additionally, we will work with the partners on the implementation of a collective advocacy strategy for increasing involvement of civil society and disability organizations in World Bank consultation initiatives. The partnership, therefore, means that the disability fraternity in Africa, and Uganda, in particular, will get an opportunity to influence policy and decision-making processes which have been elusive.
Stakeholders thus need to seize the opportunity to ensure disability is mainstreamed in all development programmes because the safeguards/policies will act as a benchmark for countries intending to borrow from the Bank.
The author is Executive Director, Nudipu.