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The World Bank and People with Disabilities

Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss

Published: 2011-06-15 : (Rev. 2011-10-03)

Synopsis and Key Points:

People with disabilities cannot be an afterthought where social inclusion poverty government and health care are concerned anymore.

Main Digest

People with disabilities cannot be an afterthought where social inclusion, poverty, government, health care, and so much more are concerned anymore.

The World Bank provides technical and financial assistance to developing nations from around the world. Its mission is to fight poverty with the intention of creating lasting results, as well as to assist people to help themselves and the environments they live in through provision of knowledge sharing, resources, and building capacities. The World Bank works to forge partnerships in both the public and private sectors.

The World Bank is not a bank in the common sense.

It is made up of two rather unique development institutions that are owned by 187 member nations. The two institutions are the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

Each one of these institutions plays a particular and collaborative role in the advancement of the vision of sustainable and inclusive globalization. The IBRD's goal is the reduction of poverty in both credit worthy poorer nations and middle-income ones. The IDA concentrates on the world's poorest nations. The work of these institutions is complemented by the efforts of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Combined, these institutions provide low-interest loans, grants, and interest-free credits to developing nations for a variety of purposes such as:

The World Bank was established in the year 1944 and has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. It has greater than 10,000 employees working in more than 100 offices around the world.

The World Bank does finance development projects involving disability components such as health care, education, employment, infrastructure, de-institutionalization, and children and youth. It also finances work related to a great variety of disability-related fields to include research and analysis, data collection and statistics, knowledge sharing, and technical assistance. The World Bank's activities will have an impact on people with disabilities, disability organizations, our family members and friends. Application of a disability lens to every Bank project with the goal of making them inclusive for everyone will eventually improve the prospects of people with disabilities who are poor in developing nations.

The link between disability and poverty is strong and it goes in both directions.

Poverty causes disability through poor health care, malnutrition, as well as dangerous living conditions. Disability may cause poverty due to prevention of full participation of people with disabilities in economic and social life in our own communities; particularly if appropriate accommodations and supports are unavailable to us. The qualitative evident, in fact, suggests that people with disabilities are significantly impoverished in developing nations - more so than our non-disabled counterparts.

One of the issues involved with studying the link between poverty, income and disability is the difficulty with obtaining high quality data, especially data that is useful for comparisons between nations. The rates of disability found in censuses and household surveys vary quite dramatically. The variation is a result of differing measurement of disability, different reactions to survey questions by those who respond, and different collection methods. The World Bank, in conjunction with international partner agencies, works to improve and expand the collection of disability-related data in developing nations.

James D. Wolfensohn, President of The World Bank Group, made a series of statements concerning disability issues and the efforts of The World Bank during the 2004 World Bank International Disability Conference in Washington, D.C.

"As soon as we brought that very simple fact to the fore, colleagues in all the regions have come together with interdisciplinary groups to ensure that in the projects in which we're operating, the issue of disabilities is not an afterthought. It is not some gloss that is put on later, but that we are learning, and we are learning every week and every day, that we're learning to try and understand that society as a whole means society as a whole. It doesn't just mean a group of society who are fully endowed with their capacities and facilities."

The statement made by Mr. Wolfensohn is very profound, especially when the fact that there are now one-billion people with disabilities in the world is taken into consideration.

People with disabilities cannot be an afterthought where social inclusion, poverty, government, health care, and so much more are concerned anymore. Even in The United States of America, major budget battles are being fought over the health care costs of people with disabilities, seniors, children, and veterans with disabilities. The budget battle in America is being fought without input from the very populations that are affected, yet The World Bank is correct - "society as a whole means society as a whole." Inclusion means everything.

Mr. Wolfensohn also stated:

"And what we're looking to do is not to just have a list of accomplishments, a list of things that you might expect we would do...It's to make everyone in the place instinctively conscious, emotionally conscious of the issues that face the community with disabilities, be they mental or physical. And to do it with a sense of both understanding and normalcy, that this is not something on the outside, this is something that is central to our work."

Leaders in America repeatedly refer to People with Disabilities, the nation's largest minority population as, 'Seniors,' when speaking of the two most important social programs for us - Social Security and Medicare. Doing so is a complete dismissal of an entire minority population and denies our very existence, despite lengthy battles between the two major parties over these very programs. The lesson of Mr. Wolfensohn and The World Bank, as well as the very Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) America has signed but not ratified is entirely lost where the leadership of America is concerned.

There is no instinctive consciousness, emotional consciousness of the issues facing the community of people with disabilities in America on the parts of America's leadership; whether these issues are mental or physical.

Instead, all but five members of the Republican Party in Congress voted in support of The Ryan Plan, which would effectively change Medicare to a voucher program. The Democrats in the Senate have stated that this should not happen; people with disabilities are left in limbo, wondering about the fate of their health care.

For many people with disabilities a philosophy of, 'if they are for us - great,' seems to be appropriate. Where the leadership in a number of nations are working with the CRPD, The World Bank, and other organizations to improve the living standards of people with disabilities and our inclusion in societies, others apparently are not following suit. When people with disabilities look for a friend, perhaps we should look at The World Bank as one.

"So what I'm trying to tell you is that there's a lot that has been going on and that the Bank is moving forward and that we're a powerful ally. But let me say with humility that I think for us, those of us who are leading this inside the institution, we have the feeling that we're literally just at the beginning--just at the beginning--of the partnership. "- James D. Wolfensohn, President of The World Bank Group

The World Bank's Disability Work,,contentMDK:20192533~menuPK:282704~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:282699,00.html

Disability and Inclusive Development: Sharing, Learning and Building Alliances,,contentMDK:20288137~menuPK:232083~pagePK:159837~piPK:159808~theSitePK:227585,00.html

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