Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the underlying aim to leave no one behind, hinges upon resources, policies and programmes focusing on the most marginalised people. Persons with disabilities have until now been left behind by the development agenda, but the SDGs include a clear commitment to better include disability. The collection and use of accurate and relevant data is critically important to including persons with disabilities in the development agenda. The SDGs are unequivocal in recognising that persons with disabilities not only count, but that their needs and the impact of progress on them (or lack of it) must also be counted.
Two previous blogs in this series identify how the inclusion of disability in international development can be better counted, including through data disaggregated by disability and by introducing an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) disability marker. The World Data Forum held in January 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa, demonstrated the growing political support and gathering momentum for both data disaggregation by disability and a DAC disability marker. This blog focuses on one other mechanism that can be better utilised to track the inclusion of disability in aid: the DAC peer review mechanism.
The OECD DAC conducts periodic reviews (approximately every five years) of the aid programmes of its 29 members with two main aims: 1) to help the country understand where it could improve its development strategy and structures so that it can increase the effectiveness of its investment, and 2) to identify and share good practice. By subjecting all members to examination and scrutiny, the DAC peer review mechanism serves to ensure donors are accountable, share learning and that their priorities are aligned with global goals and/or give greater focus to neglected issues. Ensuring that an issue is raised as part of a peer review can have a positive impact on the resources directed to that issue by DAC members. Increased attention in the DAC peer review mechanism on reproductive health, for example, has served to encourage donors to focus more on this once-neglected issue. Similarly, efforts to incorporate data on humanitarian spending and to include an examination of humanitarian activities in the peer review mechanism encouraged donors to increase their humanitarian support.
The DAC peer review mechanism requires adaptation to better examine the efforts of DAC members against the ‘leave no one behind’ principle within the SDGs. Considerations around gender are already an integral part of any peer review. Expanding the focus on gender to look at the inclusion of people by other characteristics, for example age or disability, will significantly strengthen efforts by donors to leave no one behind.
At present, disability is very rarely addressed by the peer review mechanism. The most recent peer review of Australia examined activities around disability, but this was an exception. How can this be changed so that the DAC peer review mechanism helps DAC members strengthen their approach to ‘leave no one behind’, for example, by routinely examining the inclusion of disability in their investments?
A few solutions are immediately available, namely:
- The DAC Peer Review Reference Guide includes indicators on social groups central to leave no one behind, including persons with disabilities. The reference guide sets out the key dimensions of analysis for any peer review. Persons with disabilities (or other marginalised groups) are not included in the guide, meaning that a DAC members’ inclusion of disability (or lack of it) is not routinely considered in peer reviews.
- Technical experts on social groups at the heart of leave no one behind are appointed, including persons with disabilities. A humanitarian specialist based in the Development Cooperation Directorate was appointed when DAC members sought a greater focus on humanitarian activities in the peer review mechanism. The Directorate could appoint further specialists to significantly strengthen the peer review mechanism’s focus on leave no one behind, or draw on external expertise.
- DAC guiding principles on leave no one behind, including the inclusion of persons with disabilities, are developed to further strengthen and set expectations for the aid programmes of DAC members. Lessons could be drawn from the existing guiding principles for gender equality.
The DAC peer review mechanism already has an extensive and complex set of issues it examines. We must recognise that the peer review mechanism cannot simply examine more and more issues, but a new global development agenda with new priorities requires changes be made to the DAC peer review mechanism. By integrating the underlying aim of the SDGs to leave no one behind and focusing more on key beneficiaries, including persons with disabilities, the DAC peer review mechanism can continue to fulfil its role.
Nick Corby is Associate Director of Equal International, a consultancy group based in the UK and South Africa. Nick has worked in the development sector for more than 15 years, working to create positive change including through advocacy, research and strategy development.
Read the previous blogs in this series:
Image credit: Albert González Farran – UNAMID