Leaving behind the most vulnerable

The World Bank funded conditional cash transfer programme in the Philippines

23 January 2014 | Guest comment

October 2013 Manila workshop on disability and World Bank safeguards review. Photo: the Philippine Coalition on the UN CRPD

The World Bank’s stated mission is to “end extreme poverty within a generation and boost shared prosperity,” yet the design of many Bank-funded programmes leaves out those who are most vulnerable to extreme poverty. The conditional cash transfer programme (CCT) in the Philippines, also known locally as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, is the flagship anti-poverty programme of the Philippine government that seeks to reduce extreme poverty and accelerate social development through the provision of cash grants to the poorest of the poor households. Yet the original CCT design fails to include disability despite the fact that people with disabilities are some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Philippines who therefore must be able to benefit from Bank-funded programmes such as the CCT.

The goal of this CCT is to eradicate poverty by investing in education and health. The beneficiaries of the CCT need to fulfill certain conditionalities and in return will receive cash assistance based on their ability to comply. But the CCT programme design does not consider disability as an important factor that will influence if and how people with disabilities can fulfill the conditionalities. Households with members with disabilities experience barriers in complying which households without disabled members do not.

The three conditionalities of the CCT programme are: (1) children listed as beneficiaries must have an 85 per cent attendance rate in school; (2) children aged 0-5 must go to health centers for regular preventive health check-ups and vaccines; and (3) beneficiaries must participate in family development sessions which are designed to increase the knowledge of the beneficiaries regarding their responsibilities, children’s rights, the role of children in the development of the community, gender equality, respecting the rights and culture of indigenous peoples, and reproductive health rights. Ultimately, these three conditionalities are very difficult for families with members with disabilities to meet, because of the inaccessibility of school facilities, the lack of school teachers capable of teaching children with disabilities, accessible public transportation, support services such as personal assistance, accessible health centers, understanding of the needs and rights of people with disabilities. Instead of enabling children with disabilities to benefit, the programme allows for them to be excluded.

"fails to include disability despite the fact that people with disabilities are some of the poorest and most vulnerable people"Abner Manlapaz, president, Life Haven

The World Bank’s environmental and social safeguard policies, currently under review (see Observer Autumn 2013, Update 85, 83), are designed to prevent and mitigate harms to stakeholders from Bank-funded projects. But, as the safeguards currently stand, the rights of persons with disabilities, mainstreaming, and inclusive development have not been addressed. Consequently, people with disabilities, over 1 billion people worldwide, who should be a key target population for World Bank projects given their susceptibility to poverty, are not systematically consulted or considered in the planning and design of projects and therefore do not benefit from these poverty reduction programmes. It is important to note here that indigenous peoples are covered under the current safeguards; therefore, the implementing agency within the Philippine government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, was required to ensure that indigenous peoples were able to meet the conditionalities and thus would be able to benefit from the CCT programme. Just as indigenous peoples are covered under the safeguards so should persons with disabilities so that no person is harmed by Bank projects or programmes.

Of all the policies of the Bank, the safeguards are some of the strongest determinants of how a project will be designed and implemented. To be meaningful, the safeguards must mirror the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD sets the standard in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Establishing a framework for participation of persons with disabilities to ensure meaningful engagement and using different mechanisms to help implement the CRPD will ensure protection of their rights. In fact, Article 32 of CRPD says that international cooperation, including international development programmes, should be inclusive of persons with disabilities by facilitating and supporting capacity-building, including exchange and sharing of information, experiences, training programmes and best practices. As the Bank provides over $30 billion in assistance to developing and transition countries every year, it is imperative that its policies and projects that affect billions of people worldwide promote the inclusion of people with disabilities “by ensuring their equal protection and equal benefit” as mandated by the CRPD.

Abner Manlapaz, president, Life Haven (member of the Philippine Coalition on the UN CRPD)