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Statement by Gilbert Houngbo, President of IFAD, on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

03 December 2019

An estimated 1 billion people – more than one in ten of the world’s population – experience some form of disability. This number is set to rise as medical treatments progress and the world population grows, according to the World Health Organization.

Eighty per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, according to the UN Development Programme. The World Bank estimates that 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability. Women with disabilities are often doubly disadvantaged, experiencing exclusion on account of their gender and their disability. And rural people living with disabilities face more challenges than their urban counterparts.

Why are persons with disabilities more likely to live in poverty and hunger? According to the 2018 UN Report on Disability and Sustainable Development Goals, barriers such as discrimination, and limited access to education and employment, make poverty rates higher among persons with disabilities. Even in developed countries, the percentage of people unable to afford a meal with protein every second day is almost double for persons with disabilities. In developing countries, data shows that households of persons with disabilities are more likely to be food insecure.

What can be done?

One way to help persons with disabilities emerge from poverty is to promote income generation, entrepreneurship and microenterprise development that are disability inclusive. Another is to facilitate access to mainstream finance. This can be achieved by raising awareness amongst providers, establishing partnerships with providers who recognize inclusive employers, and by helping to build mentoring and peer support networks.

What are we doing?

Over the last year, IFAD has been stepping up its efforts to embed the rights of persons with disabilities more systematically into our work, both externally, through programming, and internally. We aim to build trust and confidence among persons with disabilities, ensure that they are valued, and that their dignity and rights are respected. IFAD recently joined the Inter-Agency Support Group for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and committed to implementing the 2019 United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy.

In addition, we have been taking concrete steps to address the inclusion and economic empowerment of persons with disabilities into IFAD-supported programmes and projects, drawing on the work of the United Nations' Washington Group on Disability Statistics. A report on the findings that analyses the link between persons with disabilities and IFAD interventions will be discussed later this month by our Executive Board. Finally, IFAD’s operational guidelines on targeting have been revised to more explicitly address the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I am reminded that striving to ensure our efforts are inclusive of persons with disabilities is not only the right thing to do, it is also the practical thing to do. The success of the 2030 Agenda requires a participatory and inclusive approach in which all stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, are engaged. IFAD is committed to working with our partners in creating a better and more inclusive world for everyone.