Home > Feature > Misean Cara at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade (JCFATD)

One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Prevalence is significantly higher in low-income countries, fragile states and humanitarian settings. Misean Cara’s Project Officer Mary O’Connell highlights some of the key issues around disability inclusion in international development. Read Mary’s blog below.


Persons with disabilities, on average, are more likely to experience adverse socio-economic outcomes than persons without disabilities, such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.

People with disabilities are a particular target group of Misean Cara and we support the work of our member organisations across Africa, Asia and the Americas in direct services provision for people with disabilities, and their families, who are key to the care of people who are living with disabilities.

Our members also provide capacity development through specialised professionals and therapists, who provide critical service, while working alongside and supporting skills development for project staff, assuring ongoing professional development and systems strengthening, where skills training and systems need support and strengthening.

They work alongside and on behalf of people with disabilities and organisations of people with disabilities to engage with local and national stakeholders to advocate for services for people with disabilities, and for the implementation of inclusive development, so that people with disabilities are part of development efforts at the local, district and national levels.

We are also advocating in Ireland for inclusive development as part of the Dóchas Disability in International Development Working Group (DDIDWG). As part of the development of the Irish Governments 2019 White Paper for International Development A Better World, DDIDWG developed a submission paper to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade focused on Ireland meeting its commitment to people with disabilities in its new policy for international development.

The Houses of the Oireachtas, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs & Trade & Defence (JFATD) invited the DDIDWG members to discuss disability inclusion and international development issues, on the 2nd of July 2019. In preparation for this meeting DDIDWG members crafted key messages to advocate for in the context of the Implementation of the Irish Aid policy A Better World, and these are set out below.

DDIDWG have placed their submission with a context of both the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ireland ratified the UN CRPD and entered it into law in 2018. The CRPD legally obligates Ireland to respect the rights identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), specifically for persons with disabilities. Practically speaking, Articles 11 and 32 CRPD require that disability issues be integrated into all development interventions and humanitarian action associated with Ireland’s development cooperation programme. In this regard, it is important that all persons with disabilities, especially women and girls, participate in a meaningful way in all decision-making processes concerning them.

As one of the 193 Member States of the United Nations, Ireland committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The SDGs give effect to human rights under the CRPD. In achieving the SDGs, it is important that the CRPD shapes international development and humanitarian action to ensure there is a rights-based approach to the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Within this context, the DDIDWG made the following recommendations to the Oireachtas JFATD:

  • To ensure that Persons with Disabilities remains a key priority during the implementation of Ireland’s new development policy – “A Better World”. The policy needs to be supported by a Framework of Action (or something similar) so Ireland can be clear on how it will achieve its vision with a clear process for accountability. Persons with disabilities must be considered and included within any policy implementation plans, including having the necessary financing to deliver on these promises. And monitoring of the new policy will be essential, particularly in relation to the policy’s ‘Leave No One Behind’ promises.
  • Establish an integrated approach to the collection of data on disability in order to deliver on the promises in ‘A Better World’. It is essential to ensure that data relating to persons with disabilities is collected and used to inform mainstreaming of disability inclusion across development and humanitarian assistance programming.
  • Use a twin-track approach to ensure a practical framework for advancing the named inclusion of persons with disabilities in development activity and humanitarian assistance. Both mainstreaming and disability-specific work are necessary and complementary, but on their own, neither will lead to best-quality results. Genuine inclusion and empowerment can only occur when both tracks are employed together and lessons from each are consistently shared.
  • Dedicate resources to strengthening Irish Aid’s own technical capacity and that of its partners to implement Irish Aid’s Disability Inclusive Development Guidance Note. Continue to partner with Irish development NGOs and offer funding and technical/advisory support to representative organisations and Disabled Persons Organisations to broaden engagement and mobilise commitment to ensuring that those left furthest behind are included in development gains.
  • Play a leading role in delivering Disability Inclusive Development and consider how to support the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy and use its membership of the Global Action on Disability Network (GLAD) to support global initiatives, and their implementation.

You can watch the session now on Oireachtas TV
Part one: https://bit.ly/2XIXMuS (from 26:15) & part two: https://bit.ly/2J9oULB

Photo caption: Members of the Dóchas Disability in International Development Working Group Charlie Lamson (Sightsavers Ireland), Fatoumata Diouf (Sightsavers Senegal), Niamh Carthy (Oxfam Ireland), Dr Mary Keogh (CBM Ireland), Bill Nolan (Former Irish Ambassador to Zambia and Lesotho and CBM Ireland Board member), Mary O’Connell (Misean Cara) and Mahbub Kabir (Plan Ireland). Photo: Misean Cara.