My Footsteps: Felix Jakens, Grassroots Campaigns Manager

Felix Jakens, RESULTS’ Grassroots Campaigns Manager, tells us how his Footsteps for Futures challenge changed his perspective on his journey to work. 

Felix at the Big IF 2013I’m coming to the close of my week-long Footsteps for Futures challenge, walking to and from work every day for a week. I have to admit it hasn’t been the hardest thing I’ve ever done; I’m lucky, I only live 2.2 miles from the RESULTS office. Brixton to Vauxhall, it’s not that far.

But despite the fact that my challenge doesn’t compare to that of Joe Hepworth – over 10 miles each way for three days, or Laura Kerr, 6 miles each way for 5 days- I’ve still learned a few things.

Firstly the experience has given me the chance to actually get to know the streets I travel down every day. I cycle to work 4 out of 5 days a week normally and I’ve never really taken in the places I sail through. Like so many of us in cities we know our beginning and end points, but have only a passing relationships with the places in the middle.

Taking the time has opened my eyes to the people, businesses, street names, and people that line Stockwell Road and South Lambeth Road. These unglamorous areas are the kind of places that, unless you lived in them, you’d be unlikely to explore.

But I have now seen these little areas, no doubt on the verge of creeping gentrification spreading north from Brixton, west from Oval and south from Vauxhall, as they are enjoyed by the people who live in them. Vibrant Portuguese cafes and bakeries seem to be no more than five metres apart. As I walked down the road over the last few hot nights, I felt as though I could have been on the streets of a city in the Iberian Peninsula.

Further along my route, the Portuguese gives way to the east African, with Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants with Ge’ez signage and poor English translations beneath. I got to know each one a little bit as I walked past twice a day, hearing the different accent and languages being spoken by the ever-present patrons.

I learned to know and appreciate these places and faces in a way that my traditional speed had never allowed.

But this challenge wasn’t all balmy strolls and newfound appreciations.

I’m not a morning person at all and have come to cherish the lie-ins that my route affords me – a rare treat in London. But the earlier starts were nothing compared to the sinking feeling that I felt before each walk. Sure, once they got going they were OK, but when I was sitting in the office, or getting ready at home, the sense of the challenge that lay ahead loomed large every day. Walking is slow, tedious and tiring for those of us that don’t do it recreationally. Exactly what you don’t want before a day of concentration.

As I go back to riding my bike and getting the tube, I will remember that I choose this route. For millions of children there is no choice but to travel whatever distance it might be to the nearest school. They also have no say in whether the resources they require to learn will be waiting for them once they arrive.

This is why I support the work of RESULTS; to ensure that not only can children get to school, but that once they get there they receive a quality education that will help them break the cycle of poverty.

The Footsteps for Futures campaign runs until October 2014, with many people participating up and down the country next week (28th-1Aug). You can complete your own Footsteps challenge at any time. Money raised will go towards RESULTS’ work to increase access to education for children around the world.

To get involved or to sponsor a participant, simply visit

My Footsteps for Futures: Joe Hepworth, Central London Group

Joe Hepworth from the Central London Grassroots Group tells us about his impressive Footsteps for Futures challenge. 

I am taking a bold step next week. I’ve set myself the challenge of walking to work for the three days I’m working that week. That is from Finsbury Park to Ealing Studios… 10.6 miles each way… 63.6 miles over the three days! That’s the equivalent of walking from London to Northampton (or an estimated 22 hours of walking!)

Between the 28th July – 1st August 2014, I will be joining the RESULTS UK ‘Footsteps for Futures challenge and walking to work in solidarity with children and young people from around the world who overcome a variety of barriers to get to school.

Now, I’m not known for my love of physical endurance… and many who know me remain unconvinced… Even my own father is sponsoring me by the mile… because he figures he’ll save money that way!! So what has motivated me to do this challenge…?

Well, at the 2014 RESULTS UK national conference I heard a story about two deaf children in Rwanda that touched and inspired me. They have to walk 10 miles each day to their nearest school… and 10 miles home again. The walk is not a leisurely stroll. In fact, their journey is so exhausting that they can only do it three times a week… and yet they continue to go – as they know how vital it is to their future.

So next week I’m going to put myself in their shoes.

I’ve seen for myself the importance of education to helping young people escape the trap of poverty – and the consequences of them not. I’ve campaigned with RESULTS to ensure the UK Government prioritises global education within its aid spending; working to achieve access to a quality education for all children. I’ve seen the impact that RESULTS advocacy and campaigning has on the progress we continue to make towards this goal.

If you would like to support me as I use my footsteps to help deliver a brighter future for vulnerable children all over the world, please visit my fundraising page here.

I’m looking forward to hearing about other people’s challenges and what inspired them to take part in Footsteps for Futures!

Joe Hepworth

Grassroots Advocacy - WTBD 2014

Putting a face to the name…here I am (second left) joining RESULTS at World TB Day 2014, talking to the health Minister Jane Ellison MP about the 3 million people with TB who will not be diagnosed or treated this year.

Grassroots volunteer Nick Horslen reports back from 2014 RESULTS International Conference

Nick Horslen, our amazing grassroots volunteer from the Reading RESULTS group, recently attended the Results International Conference 2014 in Washington with his wife Julie. Have a read of his blog from the conference, hear his highlights and find out why you should consider coming along next year.

From the outset I was excited at the prospect of meeting the Results teams from all over the world. I’d seen and read a lot on the web, Facebook and on twitter about RESULTS partners in the US, Canada, Australia, European countries and from Asia and Africa as well, but it was great to actually get the chance to meet them. I was also excited to hear the volunteer advocates from Zambia and Kenya would also be joining the conference, as I was keen to see hear their first-hand experiences of the issues RESULTS work on, namely nutrition, preventable diseases and inclusive education.

Nick Horslen stands outside the World Bank Head Quarters in Washington.

Nick Horslen stands outside the World Bank Head Quarters in Washington.

As someone who has been a supporter of RESULTS for over two years now and an active grassroots campaigner for over a year, I felt I had a good grasp of the issues they work on. What I didn’t fully appreciate is the depth of experience across the world and the degree of respect held by external groups and global leaders. 30 years of commitment and leadership is certainly having an impact.

It is not possible to cover all the sessions and activity from the conference, so here is a short summary of some of my highlights.

One the most memorable sessions of the conference has to be Jim Kims key note speech. To hear Jim Kim the president of the World Bank talk so lucidly and openly with Joanna Carter as if they were lifelong buddies and “peers” was amazing. It was also great to see him take ownership of a task from one of the grassroots audience who asked a question and only to find out that Jim Kim had fixed the issue by the end of the conference. The level of respect there was tremendous. I do hope others watch the video recording of these sessions to see how authentic and important the relationship RESULTS has with the World Bank, USAID and GAVI. You can watch these videos again here.

I came away from these sessions knowing that although I only do my small bit as part of grassroots group in Reading, three or four hundred other delegates from all over the world are doing there bit as well. If we all do our bit and work together we will carry on achieving some amazing things.

Another big take away for me as someone who has a strong interest in extreme poverty, global health, global education and nutrition but also strong interests in equality, economics, technology and business, was to hear the US speakers talking of their own challenges in their own country. Speakers like Marian Wright Edelman and Travis Smiley with their impassioned views of the American legacy of racial issues and inequality was particularly memorable. As such a large and diverse country it’s easy with so many issues and the lifestyles of different people, to be hidden from the reality of their own counties poverty. There were things in those presentations as an English guy trying to focus on the developing world that I didn’t think I needed to hear and the presentation style was certainly different to what we see or expect at the UK national conference. However, just by being there and seeing the way the US grassroots people responded made me realise that just like in southern Europe where the develop world meets the developing world and where historically the past meets the future, there is still too large a gap for all sorts of people to fall into if the masses choose to look the other way.

On the more international agenda, I became an instant fan of Julia Gillard. Her leadership of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) looks set to be a turning point. As the ex prime minister of Australia, she was incredibly experienced and well prepared but at the same time remarkably human and personable and clearly up for the challenge. The Pledges that she went on to gain in Brussels the following week were amazing! It was nice to know that Dan from RESULTS UK would be attending the conference to keep up the momentum right until the announcement from Lynne Featherstone.

Nick and Julie Horlsen and US grassroots advocate meet CongressmanDerek Kilmer.

Nick and Julie Horlsen and US grassroots advocate meet CongressmanDerek Kilmer.

One of the real highlights of the conference as you would expect is the lobby day. The planning and enthusiasm was impressive. I was with a great group from the Washington State on the west coast. The Washington state team were very welcoming of Julie and I and the team was made up of everyday people, students, family people, care workers, doctors and business workers. I formed a very close bond with two or three of them, people I know I will keep in touch with again and certainly meet the next time I go to the west coast. Our Lobby day started with the UK team, we all went together to meet at the World Bank in the UK Government office where the board members and their team work. We met with Phil Stevens an Advisor to the executive director and shared information in both directions on Nutrition for Growth, the GPE, TB and general UK and World Bank policy and structure. Clearly there is a lot of change going on right now at the World Bank with UK leadership being critical in so many ways. It was a very interesting meeting.

The highlight of the lobby day was meeting their Congressman Derek Kilmer. He was a very well informed guy. He also clearly remembers meeting many of the lobby team on previous lobby days and on their home ground back in the north west of the USA. It was my pleasure to find he had studied in Oxford and knew my home town well. He clearly is something of an anglophile as well as being a very patriotic American. He took the messages we all delivered verbally in his stride and he reflected back his interest and understanding very well. He was only too happy to take on board their request to support their push towards more support for poverty initiatives globally and in the US. He even posted the picture he had taken of us on his Facebook page the same day. Have a look here. 

My experience from the US lobby day was quite different to the UK advocacy day at Parliament and Whitehall, partly because of the different surrounding but also because it seemed so much more tied to the legislative day to day and detail due to the way the American system is structured.

It now a couple of weeks since I got back from the conference but my enthusiasm for the experience remain strong. The shared belief that we all have a role in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 is now resonating stronger than ever before thanks to my trip to Washington. If you can save up and free up some time next summer, do it, you won’t regret it!

“Dying for a Cure – Research and Development for Global Health”

This blog has been written by Matt Oliver, Health Advocacy Officer for TB and Policy Adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB.

APPG TB Report CoverLast Tuesday (8th July), the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB launched its report entitled “Dying for a Cure: Research and Development for Global Health” through a debate in Westminster Hall.

The launch marks the culmination of a six month process collating evidence and researching the report. The group published a call for evidence in February, followed by three oral evidence sessions, conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed over 200 articles to provide the backbone of the report.

The final document is focused on two major issues: 1) exploring why and how the traditional commercial model of development has failed diseases of poverty such as TB and 2) what reforms could be made to incentivise increased investment in R&D and help to bring through new products such as TB drugs or an HIV vaccine.

Although often perceived as quite a dry subject, R&D is absolutely central to efforts to improve global health and eradicate poverty. Whilst great progress has been made with existing interventions against HIV, TB, malaria and other diseases, without new interventions, there is little chance of moving beyond ‘control’ of these diseases and towards ‘elimination’.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the wit and ingenuity of private sector pharmaceutical companies to come to the rescue. Researching and developing vaccines can take decades, the recent rotavirus vaccine took 33 years to develop; few private sector companies would devote such a period of time to development. In regards to drugs, a single new product costing in the region of $1bn to develop (and sometimes much more), making the decision to embark on the R&D process for such a new drug extremely risky, particularly because global markets for drugs for diseases like TB, malaria, and paediatric HIV are simply not big enough to offer the consistent, long-term financial return to incentivise commercial sector investment.

So, public and philanthropic sources of finance must fill the gap.

However, as the co-chairmen of the APPG highlight in their foreword to the report, the objective of a 21st century aid agency cannot be to fix the world’s problems. Diseases such as TB are global and require a globally coordinated response that no single aid agency could manage. A modern aid agency should devote its resources to finding solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, giving developing countries the weaponry to win their own battles against the major diseases, and supporting them in doing so.

Simply listening to the Secretary of State reveals that DFID makes the case for aid spending through a pure value for money approach, and investing in interventions that reach enormous numbers of people. This, in itself, is no bad thing, but the challenge must be to strike the right balance between operations and long-term research and development investment.

As a single example, the UK currently spends nearly £300m a year helping other countries tackle HIV, and over £630m a year treating HIV in the UK, yet DFID spends just £1 million a year developing an HIV vaccine. If there is a balance between R&D spend and operations, that balance is not quite right.

The recommendations in the report, if implemented, will not make a difference overnight. R&D timelines are long and we may not see benefits for decades. Nonetheless, new drugs for TB were needed decades ago, there is no time to spare. These recommendations must be implemented, and R&D made a greater priority of DFID spending if we are to ever develop products like HIV vaccines that are simply not commercially viable. To accelerate our progress against these diseases, to drive them towards elimination, and to safeguard the health and well-being of millions of people around the world, we need to transform our approach to R&D for global health. Hopefully, the APPG TB report marks a first step towards such a transformation.

The views in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily of RESULTS UK. A transcript of the Westminster Hall debate can be accessed here.

‘Why isn’t my life worth anything to Romanian authorities?’ – Cristina reflects on surviving MDR-TB in Romania

This is our second blog from Cristina in Romania which she has written following a visit from UK parliamentarians back in May. You can find her first post and other voices from those affected by TB on the  TB Europe Coalition website.

‘Why isn’t my life worth anything to Romanian authorities?’ – Cristina reflects on surviving MDR-TB in Romania

“- Cristina?!!”  I can still hear the deep voice of my grandfather.

“-Come here! Do you want to hear a story?”

“-Yes, grandpa! Tell me the one with the mountains and the rivers, the birds and the green pastures, the hills and the planes and the deep blue sea.”

“-There was once this beautiful country called Romania. God had blessed it with tall mountains, and green valleys, wavy hills, and vast planes and oh…yes..the deep blue sea…”

View from Bisercani Hospital, Romania. Credit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

View from Bisercani Hospital, Romania. Credit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

I would close my eyes and imagine all these beauty. A feeling of great happiness warmed my chest. I’d often fall asleep dreaming of tall mountains, great lush planes, courageous kings and warm hearted inhabitants of this magnificent land, protected by my grandpa’s strong hands.

When I would wake up he’ll look at me with his deep blue eyes, all of a sudden very serious: “-You have to love your country, you know! This is your home! This is where your kind live! Great acts of courage were written with blood on this soil.” and he’d make me touch the ground and I’d feel a part of a whole. I’d feel that all these brave people before me were my roots to this land and I’ll be the roots for the ones coming after me.

I was taught to love my country. To think that for better or worst I belong to this land. I’ll protect it and it’ll protect me.

Since I got sick, I don’t know anymore. My country betrayed me. I no longer felt protected. The people I entrusted my vote, that vowed to care for our people no longer considered my life important. Where are the brave kings and knights that once ruled our land? They disappeared into fog, like my grandpa did.

At first I was shocked. No! It can’t be! You can’t just ignore a contagious disease with the potential to kill thousands. Wasn’t it enough that great minds of our world were already forever lost to this horrible disease? Anne and Emily Bronte, Albert Camus, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, Paul Gauguin, Modigliani and the black list goes on, and on.

But it was true. They are ignoring it, consciously putting in danger innocent people.

And then it became obvious. I was all alone in this battle. And the more I read, the more I found out the more disappointed I was.

Not long ago I met this group of English members of Parliament. They made me feel envious…Envious that they care about their people. They made me think. Why isn’t my life worth anything to Romanian authorities? Why aren’t we looking after our people? The “whys” will always keep spinning in my head.

This is the question I’d ask the politicians from all over the world: Why? Why die uselessly?

DFID’s Contribution to Improving Nutrition – New Evaluation Published Today

© Pierre Holtz | UNICEF

© Pierre Holtz | UNICEF

This blog has been written by Tena Nevidal, a Volunteer Intern at RESULTS UK who is spending her time looking at the nutrition aid architecture.

Today, a study that evaluates DFID’s Contribution to Improving Nutrition was published by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). It focuses on DFID’s overall strategy in targeting undernutrition and the coherence of its nutrition portfolio, which currently consists of 114 projects. The report took account of all of these, but focused specifically on DFID’s programmes in Zambia and India, which ICAI researchers visited.

The main objective was to see whether DFID’s efforts are on the track to bring meaningful impact and improve the lives and future opportunities of children under the age of five that are under the threat of malnutrition.

ICAI used traffic lights to indicate its judgement of DFID’s objectives, delivery, impact, learning and overall success in its nutrition agenda.

Green: The programme performs well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Some improvements are needed.

Green - Amber: The programme performs relatively well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Improvements should be made.

Amber - Red: The programme performs relatively poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Significant improvements should be made.

Red: The programme performs poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Immediate and major changes need to be made.

Overall, DFID’s actions have been rated Green-Amber, with its objectives, delivery and learning falling into this category. However, the closest indicator of how these projects affect people on the ground – impact, is lagging behind on Amber-Red. This grade leaves more than enough room for recommendations and ICAI presented the following five:

1: “DFID should make long-term commitments to maintain the pace and scale of its nutrition investments through its country programmes.”

DFID has been a leading figure in generating a focus on nutrition aid among global donors, as well as one of the biggest contributors to nutrition aid funding. However, the funding gap in nutrition sector is still estimated to be at 9.6 billion dollars annually (The Lancet 2013).

2: “DFID should implement nutrition interventions which will have the greatest impact on stunting and cognitive development.”

During their visits to India and Zambia, ICAI researches noted that “although DFID’s work is generally based on sound evidence, its projects do not always focus on the mix of interventions for the greatest impact on stunting.” Since stunting is a symptom of malnutrition with the most severe consequences for physical and cognitive development of a child, DFID should review its approach to prioritize targeting it.

3: “DFID should ensure that its interventions target better the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable mothers and children.”

Although the distribution of nutrients considerably relies on the efforts of domestic governments, more needs to be done to ensure that the most vulnerable parts of population, such as those that often migrate for work and those that live in remote areas, also get the nutrients they need for a healthy and active life.

4: “DFID should work with partners globally and in developing countries to ensure systems are in place to measure the impacts of its programmes.”

This recommendation takes into account the difficulty of measuring the impact of tackling stunting, as measuring children under two years of age is difficult without special training. It is in the same time necessary to have those evaluations as there can always be better interventions developed if there is a base of data to draw from.

5: “DFID should actively explore ways in which to engage the private sector in reducing undernutrition.”

Considering the daunting funding gap that nutrition is looking at, attracting new funds remains at the top of the list of priorities.

Finally, DFID has been a leading figure in generating focus on nutrition aid among global donors, as well as one of the biggest contributors to nutrition aid funding. DFID’s objectives are informed by sound research and its scale of action is good and consists of a balanced proportion of nutrition specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions. ICAI researchers expect DFID to “exceed its target of reaching 20 million under-five children by 2015.”

Even with completing that target, there is still a long way to go. But with a better monitoring system that would help identify more effective stunting interventions and with overcoming obstacles of delivering nutrients to the most vulnerable, DFID would certainly keep making meaningful steps on the way from attacking malnutrition, to controlling it and finally overcoming.

RESULTS is recruiting a Micronutrient Advocacy Officer!

We have another exciting opportunity at RESULTS for a passionate advocate to come join our excellent team, in a new post: Micronutrient Advocacy Officer.

Vitamin and Mineral deficiency (VMD) is a problem that has damaging impact on the health of millions of children and women around the world. Yet few people are aware of the detrimental role that this form of undernutrition has on the social and economic development of low-income countries.


The United Nations estimates that 842 million people,approximately 1 in 8 people globally do not consume sufficient food to lead an active life. Another one billion people do not intake sufficient vitamins and minerals. This can lead to complications such as child blindness, caused by Vitamin A deficiency. It is this issue, of ‘hidden hunger’, that will be the focus for a new staff member.

At RESULTS we believe the issue of Hidden Hunger deserves far more attention from donors and development agencies. We believe that Micronutrient interventions (such as fortification of flour, or distribution of vitamin A) are highly cost-effective programmes that are comparatively easy to scale-up compared to many development challenges. International efforts in this area need can be taken to scale to achieve much needed progress in this pressing area.

Undernutrition contributes to more than 3 million child deaths every year, and hidden hunger is an important part of this. Ninety percent of stunted children live in Africa (34%) and Asia (58%), and the burden of undernutrition falls unfairly on the poorest children in the world.

If you have experience in advocacy and a good understanding of undernutrition in developing countries then we would like to hear from you. We are currently advertising two jobs in our nutrition team – please see the website for details

RESULTS is recruiting a Nutrition Advocacy Officer!

Are you an advocate looking for the next step in your career?

Do you want to use your skills to design and implement nutrition actions while working with a strong team of experienced health and education advocates?

Are you self-motivated and committed to international development and health issues?

If your answers are: yes, yes, and yes! RESULTS UK wants to hear from you.

RESULTS are a dynamic organisation that uses advocacy and campaigning to build the political will to end extreme poverty. Right now we have the exciting opportunity for an advocate to join our team as Nutrition Advocacy Officer.


Undernutrition is the single largest killer of children under five, responsible for 45% (3.1 million) of all child deaths ¾ the majority of which are preventable. At RESULTS UK we seek to improve the commitment to nutrition at a global level by implementing effective advocacy and communication strategies.

You will be involved in a wide range of strategies, such as conducting policy research, building and cultivating global partnerships, arranging delegations for decision-makers, producing policy briefs and many more.

You should have prior experience of advocacy and a good understanding of health and nutrition factors affecting children in developing countries. The closing date for applications is Wednesday 23rd of July at 5pm.

For more details please download the job description. We are also recruiting another Nutrition Advocacy Officer to work on an exciting new project on micronutrients interventions. Full details on both position can be found on the RESULTS website. 

RESULTS Celebrates Success Stories at the Parliamentary Reception

Alicia P. Morales, Volunteer Intern, describes her enriching experience at RESULTS event in Parliament. 

On June 10, one day after starting  my internship with RESULTS UK, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend their Parliamentary reception at Westminster. As the newby in the organisation this event came at a perfect time for me, since I had the opportunity to learn first hand about the many aspects that give RESULTS the important edge on the way they do their work.

RESULTS' Executive Director, Aaron Oxley along with The Rt Hon. Lord Steel of Aikwood

RESULTS’ Executive Director, Aaron Oxley along with The Rt Hon. Lord Steel of Aikwood

Aaron Oxley, Executive Director for RESULTS UK, set in motion a night to remember with a rehash of many of RESULTS’ success stories. However, Mr. Oxley acknowledged that this couldn’t have happened without the support of a vast spectrum of collaborators, many of which were present in the room. RESULTS celebrated as well that many more collaborators continue to join the organisation as volunteers who donate their time to help accelerate the process to bringing about the end of extreme poverty.

The reception was an informational and empowering evening on many levels and the audience ranged from volunteers to top advocacy officers in the field of development. Respectable guest speakers such as: Mark Dybul, Executive Director of The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; Anne Wafula Strike, Paralympic athlete and Founder of the Olympia-Wafula Foundation, and Annette Brooke, Member of Parliament for Mid Dorset and North Poole, contributed with their expertise in the subjects of health and poverty alleviation, and acknowledged RESULTS’ effective efforts over the past years.

Gill Price, from the Stort Valley RESULTS group speaks with with Anne Wafula Strike and Purna Shrestha from VSO

Gill Price, from the Stort Valley RESULTS group speaks with
with Anne Wafula Strike and Purna Shrestha from VSO

As if having been in Parliament on my second day, and having felt part of this great organization had not bee enough of a superb feeling, I also had the honor to mingle all evening with the world’s most influential advocates for global health, education, and poverty alleviation. One of them being part of our team at RESULTS, Steve Lewis, the Global Health Advocacy Manager, who said: “What a great opportunity for everyone to discuss these issues informally and reflect on the work we do. I’m happy to see about 20 MP’s here tonight showing their support for RESULTS and celebrating with us.”

The Parliamentary reception was a well-deserved night of recognition of achievements for RESULTS and for the network of collaborators, colleagues, and grassroots/citizen campaigners to celebrate the progress made collectively towards the eradication of extreme poverty. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be part of it!

More positive news on education for children with disabilities!

Dan Jones, Campaigns Manager, welcomes the Government’s commitments to prioritise people with disabilities in development, and urges full implementation.

“The UK Government is committed to ensuring that disabled people, and all other excluded social groups, are systematically and consistently included in DFID’s policy, programming and international work and will embed the recommendations from the IDC as far as possible. The UK supports the ambition of the High Level Panel Report on the post 2015 development agenda to eradicate extreme poverty and leave no one behind.”

-       Government response to the International Development Committee’s report on Disability & Development, June 2014

Hot on the heels of last week’s strong UK pledge to the Global Partnership for Education, we have more positive news to report! On Friday, after much anticipation, Parliament’s International Development Committee published the Government’s official response to their recommendations on prioritising people with disabilities in UK aid programmes. And thanks to the tireless campaigning of RESULTS grassroots advocates and many others, it’s good news.

Leroy Phillips chairs session on Inclusive Education at the Global Partnership for Education Pledging Conference. GPE/Chantal Rigaud

Leroy Phillips chairs a session on Inclusive Education at the 2014 Global Partnership for Education Pledging Conference. Credit: GPE/Chantal Rigaud

In a thoughtful, nuanced but ultimately very positive response to the Committee’s recommendations, DFID welcomes the IDC’s report, and agrees that disability is a significant development challenge and important to DFID’s mandate of reducing extreme poverty.

In their response, DFID argue that “a disability strategy” is not the right approach to prioritising support to people with disabilities, instead saying that they will strengthen the focus on disability within the Department’s holistic “social inclusion approach”. This approach aims to identify and tackle different barriers to development experienced because of disability, ethnicity, gender, geography, age, race or any combination of these. They argue that this approach, complemented by a stronger focus on disability, allows for a better understanding of the multi-layered and interlocking causes of poverty, and will ultimately lead to better inclusion of disabled people in mainstream programmes.

Despite this contested point, DFID go on to accept the need to strengthen their focus on disability, and make important and wide-ranging new commitments. These include:

-       Publishing a disability framework by November 2014, setting out a clear commitment, approach and actions to strengthen disability in DFID’s policy, programme and international work. They will develop the framework in discussion with Disabled People’s Organisations and NGOs working on disability.

-       Continuing to advocate for ‘no one left behind’, as a key principle of the Post-2015 development framework, and for goals to be underpinned by disaggregated data by different social group to ensure that they are met by everyone;

-       Including people with disabilities systematically in DFID’s humanitarian response work;

-       Announcing further sectoral commitments on disability by October 2014;

-       Striving to make DFID a more disability inclusive employer;

-       Developing, progressing and deepening their work on improving global evidence and data on disability.

To support these new commitments, DFID also pledge to strengthen their internal capacity with better guidance and training for all staff on inclusion; by appointing a senior managerial champion on disability; and by increasing the number of disability experts working in DFID.

Stephen from Handicap International and Lucy from SENSE launch new GCE disability report at the 2014 Global Partnership for Education pledging conference. Credit Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK.

Stephen from Handicap International and Lucy from SENSE launch new GCE disability report at the 2014 Global Partnership for Education pledging conference. Credit Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK.

Importantly, the response also highlights that the UK will play a leading role in seeking to improve the data on disability globally and in their partner developing countries, to end the invisibility of disabled people from development efforts. This includes organising “a joint technical conference with the UN and with Leonard Cheshire Disability research unit (UCL) to look at global practice and policy on strengthening data on disability in preparation for the Post 2015 framework”.

DFID Minister Lynne Featherstone MP has been instrumental in strengthening the department’s focus on disability. Last week, she spoke at a high level side event that RESULTS UK and the Global Campaign for Education helped to organise on inclusive education at the Global Partnership for Education replenishment conference, just hours before making the UK’s strong pledge of up to £300 million to the GPE. On the same day, we helped to launch a new Global Campaign for Education UK report which urges DFID to embed a systematic, strong focus on disability throughout UK aid to education.

DFID’s new commitments on disability create the potential for the UK to become a world leader on the inclusion of disabled people in overseas aid for the long term, crucially even after Lynne Featherstone moves on. We will be watching closely to see how these powerful words are turned into action for some of the world’s most marginalised people. But for now, RESULTS grassroots campaigners should give themselves a well-deserved pat on the back – your advocacy really does have the power to end poverty.