Building indicators for inclusive development I: the background

The paradigm of inclusion is demanded by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities. Thus projects and activities should be in line with the the general principles (article 3) of the UN CRPD and its aims should be respected.

Which is easy, in theory.

Turing towards practice this becomes far more difficult. Projects for example face the challenge to translate the text of the UN CRPD into implementable activities. One major element in this process are project indicators that should be inclusive. But this turns out to be a problem as inclusion cannot just be measured easily. The indicators that can be found in many projects are not clearly formulated or still disability specific and, despite the good and inclusive intention, not inclusive.


Disability is a wide concept with various international, national and individual definitions. Article 1 of the UN CRPD defines disability as a interactive and relational concept between the person with impairment and society or social environment. Disability (here the red circle) happens at the interaction point:

If the individual with impairment is seen as the problem, this reaction is seen as a disablement, because the root causes of disability are not addressed. Root causes can be non-discrimination, lack of equality and others.
If the problems are seen at a social level, disability may not occur in its strongest form. In this case actors identify the root causes and address them in an inclusive way which can mitigate the level of disability.

Normative and conceptual frameworks

In order to start building indicators some preconditions should be defined that provide the pretext for inclusive indicators. In this context the normative standard and the conceptual frameworks of a RBA and the twin track approach are relevant to formulate inclusive indicators.

The normative standards: the UN CRPD

The normative standards are provided through the UN CRPD for the context of inclusion. Besides the general obligation for the main social, economic and cultural rights it calls for non-discrimination, equal opportunities, participation, inclusion and accountability. These should be at the heart of inclusive projects.
As a human rights convention in the context of international development its implementation should be guided by the principles of respect, protection and fulfilment of duty-bearers (the state) towards rights-holders (all citizens). States should do this through the provision of relevant legislation and the framework that provides the fulfilment of these rights.
Rights-holders have to be able to claim their rights. This can be achieved through empowerment.

Conceptual Framework No.1: the RBA

Implementation of human rights in development cooperation lead to the development of the so called rights-based-approach. A human rights-based approach is a conceptual framework for the process of human development and is based on international human rights standards and obligations established by international law. It aims at the promotion and protection of human rights and seeks to redress discriminatory practices and inequalities that impede development progress. The RBA identifies rights-holders and their entitlements and corresponding duty-bearers and their obligations, and works towards strengthening the capacities of rights-holders to make their claims and of duty-bearers to meet their obligations.

Conceptual Framework No. 2: the Twin Track Approach

For the specific context of disability a twin track approached has been demanded by several international organizations. The European Commission for example released a and guidance note on disability and development explaining the twin track approach (see page 12: “3. Pursue a twin track approach”). This approach should ensure that programs focus as well on disability specific support but also aim to support inclusive activities and mainstreams disability into general development.

The twin-track approach is often postulated as a central inclusive framework at program level. Its transfer to project level is rarely achieved because of a lack of tools to do so.

The look forward

These normative and conceptual framework provide all the elements to develop tools for the formulation of inclusive indicators, which will be described in the next article.
So long….



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