NCD letter to House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

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April 17, 2020

The Honorable Nita Lowey, Chairwoman
U.S. House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee of State,
Foreign Operations and Related Programs
H-307, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Harold Rogers, Ranking Member
U.S. House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on State,
Foreign Operations and Related Programs
1016 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Rogers,

I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent, nonpartisan federal agency that advises the President and Congress on disability policy issues, to express strong support for the inclusion of increased funding for the State Department (DOS)’s Office for International Disability Rights and additional funding for the USAID Disability Fund in the fiscal year 2021 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill.

Roughly 15 percent of the world’s population, or one billion people, have some form of disability, with roughly 80% of them living in developing countries, post-conflict societies, among refugee populations, and in countries with histories of political violence. The U.S. government maintains thousands of international programs administered by agencies, including DOS, at a cost of billions annually, and has the potential to attract participants and employees with disabilities and thereby impact the quality of life of people with disabilities in those countries through U.S. programs, policies, and activities.

The need for funding is well supported by NCD’s body of research and policy advice to Congress in the past. In 2013, NCD issued Toward the Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities: Examining the Accessibility of Overseas Facilities and Programs Funded by the United States report, in which we advised DOS to “provide adequate resources for the Office of Special Advisor on International Disability Rights to effectively promote disability inclusion in all aspects of DOS work.”[1] Increased funding for the State Department's Office for International Disability Rights is in line with NCD’s research-based advice.

Furthermore, NCD supports appropriations language requiring a report on how disability rights are mainstreamed in programming, policy, and staffing decisions at DOS and USAID. In 2018, NCD issued its U.S. Foreign Policy and Disability: Progress and Promise 2017 report, and found, based on interviews with employees of several bureaus within DOS, that the visibility of people with disabilities in DOS policies and programs had been raised within DOS through the public presence of the Special Advisor. In that report, NCD advised DOS to “establish a public-facing, accessible policy that underscores the U.S. commitment to including people with disabilities in U.S. Foreign Assistance Programming...;” to “include a focus on disability rights” in its foreign service staff training; and “create actionable steps for including persons with disabilities in all aspects of its U.S. foreign assistance.”[2] Based on our previous research, NCD supports language requiring a report on how disability rights are mainstreamed in all programming, policy, and staffing decisions at DOS and USAID. Such reports will help NCD evaluate whether DOS and USAID’s financial investments are meeting their commitment to improve disability inclusion.

We welcome discussions of our research or advice related to promoting disability inclusion in all aspects of DOS work. We encourage your staff to follow up with Joan Durocher, Director of Policy and General Counsel at jdurocher@ncd.gov, with any questions or concerns.

Respectfully,

Neil Romano
Chairman

 




[1] National Council on Disability, Toward the Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities: Examining the Accessibility of Overseas Facilities and Programs Funded by the United States (March 2013), https://ncd.gov/rawmedia_repository/91eefd87_5f67_49cb_9c5e_e8fb86ccf5a4... (accessed April 8, 2020).

[2] National Council on Disability, U.S. Foreign Policy and Disability: Progress and Promise 2017 (March 2018), https://ncd.gov/sites/default/files/US%20Foreign%20Policy%20and%20Disabi... (accessed April 8, 2020).