Sign In

AusAID’s Disability-Inclusive Development Reference Group

Communiqué—Fourth Meeting, 9 - 12 August 2010, Phnom Penh

This Communiqué is also available in the following formats:

DRG Communiqué for August 2010 meeting [PDF 59kb]
DRG Communiqué for August 2010 meeting [Word 81kb]


  • The fourth meeting of the AusAID Disability-Inclusive Development Reference Group (DRG) was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 9-12 August 2010. This was the first time a meeting of the DRG had taken place outside of Australia involving a broad range of external stakeholders and engagement of AusAID country program personnel. The agenda for the meeting and biographies of DRG members are at Attachment A. Ms Ingar Duering of GTZ participated as an observer of the DRG meeting with the expectation that GTZ will become a permanent member of the group. Ms Megan McCoy currently representing the New Zealand Aid Program on the DRG was introduced as AusAID’s new Regional Specialist (Disability Inclusive Development) due to commence work with the AusAID team in Phnom Penh in October 2010. The agenda and outcomes from the DRG’s third meeting in April 2010 are at Attachment B.
  • The four days of proceedings were well attended and were chaired by AusAID Director, Disability Inclusive Development (Kristen Pratt). The DRG met with H.E Ith Sam Heng, the Cambodian Minister for Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY), H.E. Sem Sokha Secretary of State, Department of Rehabilitation, MoSVY and other senior government officials. Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia, H.E. Margaret Adamson briefed the DRG on arrival, led the meeting with Minister Sam Heng, and hosted a high profile dinner which included the participation of H.E. Dr Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister for Women’s Affairs. Discussions were also held with AusAID program staff, and prominent NGOs, International NGOs (INGOs), Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) and Development Partners involved with disability inclusive development in Cambodia. AusAID Assistant Director General, Mr Laurie Dunn, gave his apologies.


  • The Reference Group was established to provide senior level guidance to the Australian aid program on implementation of the Development for All Strategy, ensure that efforts are consistent with and fulfil Australia’s commitments under United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and ensure that the transparent and consultative approach is taken during the preparation of the Development for All strategy continues throughout implementation. Objectives for the fourth meeting were to:
  • Increase understanding of development partners in Cambodia – Government, DPOs, NGOs, INGOs and other donor agencies – of the priorities and strategy of the Australian Government in disability-inclusive development
  • Support the AusAID team in Phnom Penh in effectively integrating disability in Australia’s aid program through the Development for All strategy
  • Strengthen DRG member’s understanding of progress, opportunities, challenges and needs of AusAID in-country teams in effectively implementing the Development for All Strategy
  • Review and provide guidance on priority areas and activities identified at the third DRG meeting
  • Set out forward agenda and priority areas of focus for the DRG for 2010-11.

Key outcomes

  • Agreed outcomes of the meeting include:


Royal Government of Cambodia: Inclusive National Development

  • Noted the Royal Government of Cambodia’s long history of engagement and support for people with disability due to impairments caused by conflict and remnants of war.
  • Noted Australia’s long established partnership with Government towards ensuring that people with disability in Cambodia are included in, contributing to, and benefiting from national development.
  • Congratulated Government leadership and preparations to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – noting that much of the essential architecture is already in place and there is already much to report should Government ratify.
  • Acknowledged the challenges in planning and decision making, particularly around service provision, caused by weak statistics on disability.
  • Encouraged Government to pursue plans to work with the National Statistic Office to clean, analyse and make existing data available.
  • Strongly supported steps to:
    • review the definition of disability (and move away from the existing medical model to a social model) using the WHO International Classification of Functioning and revise questionnaires accordingly
    • engage with UNESCAP and the Washington Data Group to strengthen content of future surveys including regular social economic survey and the 2018 census.
  • Welcomed Government’s intention to recognise disability as a cross cutting issue.
  • Supported efforts to improve coordination across and between different line ministries including education, infrastructure and health to strengthen the whole of government’s strategy and policy implementation.

Development Partners (Disabled Peoples Organisations, People with Disability, NGOs, INGOs, Donor Partners)

  • Recognised the common challenges presented including:
    • Limited access by people with disability to health and education services, higher education, employment opportunities, economic markets and vocational training
    • Limited capacity to clean, organise, analyse and present available primary disability data to inform Government policy makers
  • Encouraged development partners to improve coordination and develop a unified and cooperative voice on disability issues in Cambodia to strengthen their advocacy and influence with Government.
  • Acknowledged relevant areas for collaboration between AusAID and GTZ including: compliance criteria for working with partner governments; barrier free construction; research on inclusive employment; setting benchmarks in corporate policy; social protection and staff capacity building.
  • Noted World Bank’s support of the Fast Track Initiative, Cambodia’s largest education program, and the crucial role it can play with Government in support of inclusive education.
  • Highlighted the value of bilateral partners sharing experience on training and staff capacity development and identified scope for future collaboration with between USAID and AusAID on accessible design.
  • Identified the need to align all development partner strategies and policies with the Government’s Functional Review and Decentralisation and De-concentration process to ensure a rights based approach is adopted to address equity issues in Cambodia.

AusAID Cambodia Program

  • Recognised the impact of consistent high-level leadership from Australia’s mission in engaging and working with Government towards a more comprehensive approach to including people with disability in development decision making, program design and implementation.
  • Confirmed AusAID Cambodia’s position as a focus country, as demonstrated by the spread of inclusive development activity and in the nature of discussions which were focused on the ‘how’ of inclusive development rather than the ‘why’.
  • Noted good progress building on previous mine-action work to broaden and establish a sound foundation of disability-specific activities that underpin integration of disability across the program and wider disability-inclusive development in Cambodia. Of note was early support to Government in its efforts towards ratifying the UNCRPD and capacity development/empowerment of Disabled Peoples Organisations such as English language training to strengthen applications for leadership and scholarship programs.
  • Acknowledged innovative steps to revise guidance for existing flexible mechanisms under Australia’s aid program such as Small Grants Schemes and Discretionary Aid Program to increase equity by requiring that people with disability are consulted in preparation of proposals, included as partners, and clearly benefit.
  • Congratulated the Australian mission for modelling good-practice in becoming an inclusive organisation by recruiting people with disability into temporary vacancies as career development opportunities that have frequently led to appropriate permanent employment elsewhere.
  • Recognised and encouraged early analysis and efforts to integrate disability in all of the key sectors that Australia engages; Agriculture and Rural Development, Health, Law and Justice, and Infrastructure.

Opportunities for disability inclusive development

  • Noted the positive momentum on disability issues through the Government’s social protection agenda and the opportunities for strengthened cooperation with other key development partners.
  • Identified the Government’s Decentralisation and De-concentration process as a critical area for engagement by development partners, particularly to influence reforms in integrated service delivery.
  • Highlighted the need to influence design processes for new infrastructure projects to promote accessibility for people with disabilities working with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank who are heavily engaged in this sector.
  • Encouraged development partners to work with Government to improve access to health equity funds for people with disabilities.

Disability Inclusive Development Team

  • Congratulated AusAID for completion of the Development for All Report Card November 2008-June 2010 and acknowledged the significant achievements documented whilst recognising the challenges identified.
    • Recommended application of consistent language regarding disability; inclusion of a disability inclusive development definition; and an explanation of which programs represent focus countries.
  • Endorsed DIDT’s proposed approach for developing a delivery strategy, a strategic planning and management tool that will guide AusAID staff in policy engagement, program development and management.
    • Acknowledged the delivery strategy could be a useful tool to strengthen the case on why disability is a development issue and not a health issue.
  • Encouraged AusAID to reflect the use of the UNCRPD as a framework to support a rights based approach in the delivery strategy.
  • Supported the suggested process for finalising the Development for All Strategy Performance Assessment Framework and establishment of an externally contracted Performance Information Team to assist with monitoring and evaluation.

Summary of discussions:

Cambodia Post and AusAID Program Staff

  • The Australian Ambassador H.E. Margaret Adamson met with the DRG to provide an overview of disability issues in Cambodia. The Ambassador explained disability focused work in Cambodia originates from post-conflict aid programs built on landmine survivor assistance and unexploded ordinance activities. This has resulted in a strong and engaged NGO sector in Cambodia. Ms Adamson noted that the visit of Mr McMullan (previous Parliamentary Secretary for the aid program) two years ago served to raise the profile of Australia’s efforts to be more inclusive of people with disability. The Ambassador emphasised the importance of joint messaging by development partners and the need for unified positions on disability inclusive development. She also stressed the need to reinforce Australian experience in disability inclusive development and highlight the productivity benefits of greater inclusion, especially where counterpart government’s budgets are under stress.
  • The DRG had meetings with AusAID Counsellor Development Cooperation, Lachlan Pontifex and senior managers from each of the sectoral programs. Post staff sought specific guidance from the DRG on identifying sector specific opportunities and broadening disability inclusive development into a range of programs. Key issues presented by Post staff include:
  • AusAID support in providing a National Disability Advisor has contributed significantly to progress by the Government on disability issues and was instrumental in the development of the National Plan of Action for People with Disabilities.
  • There is a lack of quality data on disability. Data from the last census in 2008 indicates a low prevalence of people with disability, however estimates from WHO indicate these figures could be inaccurate. Post highlighted the importance of developing a sound evidence base to inform government policy and development partner programming.
  • Service delivery presents significant challenges across most sectors and needs to be a core focus of any development programming.
  • Difficulties associated with retro-fitting disability inclusive development into existing program designs and implementation processes.
  • The DRG outlined a number of existing program areas that could incorporate disability inclusive components:
  • Health. Government’s specific budget allocations to non communicable disease and mental health programs are possible entry points for cooperation in the health sector on disability.
  • Law and Justice. Development of accessible infrastructure, and awareness and capacity through police training between law enforcers and people with disabilities.
  • Infrastructure. World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are heavily involved in infrastructure programming in Cambodia and have strong universal design policies. AusAID consider advocating for consistent implementation of these policies through cooperation in this sector.
  • The DRG noted a new agriculture and rural development program is currently being developed and disability and gender strategies were being considered as part of the design process. The program has also established a sector monitoring group that includes a dedicated resource for cross cutting issues including disability. The DRG saw this as a positive demonstration that AusAID’s twin track approach to disability inclusive development was beginning to have an impact on program implementation.


Cambodian Government

  • The DRG met with H.E Ith Sam Heng, the Government Minister for Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and a range of senior officials from MoSVY. A full list of meeting participants is at Attachment C. Key issues discussed include:
  • A Government Disability Fund has been established as a means of raising revenue for disability programs and all development partners are encouraged to contribute.
  • Government is finalising a draft sub-decree to improve access to employment for people with disabilities by establishing a quota system.
  • Government has committed to the ninth MDG on landmine action.
  • A technical working group had been formed to oversee and implement a ten stage process toward ratification of the UNCRPD.
  • The AusAID funded National Disability Advisor will have a key role in guiding MoSVY toward ratification.
  • The classification system for disability requires modification to align with a social model instead of being based on a medical model.

Disability Inclusive Development stakeholders

  • Disability inclusive development stakeholders including DPOs, NGOs, INGOs, Development Partners held discussions with the DRG over the four days. A full list of participants is at Attachment C. highlights of discussion included:
  • There is a lack of incentives to encourage children with disability to attend school because of the shortage of employment opportunities following graduation. Many schools have not been able to address barriers that prevent attendance and equality of learning
  • NGO and INGO participants noted positive progress on mainstreaming inclusive development through community engagement under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Program, including ongoing involvement of people with disability.
  • Absence of reliable data specifically related to equity, service delivery and performance. Household economic surveys conducted every two years have the scope to provide useful information. This requires the commitment of donors and Government.
  • Coordination is a significant challenge and NGOs have found it hard to build cooperation across sectors and promote a whole-of-government approach between Ministries. NGOs recognised the challenges faced by Government in taking over management responsibility of a number of physical rehabilitation centres in Cambodia.
  • GTZ outlined a new strategic initiative that would target social protection at both local and central Government levels and highlighted the MOU between Australia and BMZ as an avenue for increased collaboration.
  • USAID has been grappling with monitoring of and ensuring compliance to key disability inclusive policies. To build staff capacity on disability inclusive development, USAID provides a suite of online learning resources and delivers compulsory training modules for all foreign service staff prior to deployment overseas.

Perspectives from rural women with disability

  • The DRG greatly appreciated the chance to meet with a group of mothers and women with disability representing several rural communities in Cambodia. The DRG identified a number of common themes from the discussions:
  • Employment and self employment opportunities are limited for rural women with disabilities. Lack of access to start-up capital and microfinance presents severe limitations.
  • Access to health services is problematic crated by poor quality and inaccessible infrastructure. Although many women were aware of concessions for people with disability under health equity funds, it was clear this is not available and most were bearing the full cost of health services.
  • Many of the women had heard about the new Disability Laws, but were not familiar with the UNCRPD.

AusAID Disability Inclusive Development Program Update

  • The DRG had several business meetings with AusAID staff from the Disability Inclusive Development Team (DIDT). Ms Kristen Pratt, Director DIDT took the opportunity to update the DRG on progress and developments on implementation of the Development for All Strategy since the last meeting in April 2010.
  • A draft version of the Development for All Report Card November 2008-June 2010 was presented and key achievements and challenges since implementation of the strategy in 2008 were highlighted. The DRG made the following recommendations regarding the Report Card:
  • Further refinement is required in preparation of the Report Card for publishing on the AusAID website.
  • Apply consistent language regarding disability and standardise use of acronyms such as UNCRPD.
  • Incorporate a definition of disability inclusive development at the beginning of the Report Card and an explanation of which programs represent focus countries and reasoning behind their selection.
  • Include web links to relevant documents and analysis.
  • AusAID’s proposal to develop a Disability Inclusive Development Delivery Strategy was discussed. The Delivery Strategy will be positioned between higher level strategic documents and individual activity level design documents. It will describe how AusAID is to deliver on the commitments articulated in strategy and policy documents to support and promote change towards achievement of priority development outcomes. Key points raised include:
  • It should be strategic, principles based and focus on the enabling outcomes of the Development for All Strategy.
  • Provides an opportunity to clearly articulate a position on prevention programs and where they should logically be positioned in AusAID.
  • Could be used to strengthen the case on why disability is a development issue and not a health issue.
  • Will be an important tool in managing the significant transition expected within DIDT over the coming months and to plan implementation following the completion of the Development for All Strategy in 2014.
  • The DRG encouraged AusAID to reflect the use of the UNCRPD as a framework to support a rights based approach in the Delivery Strategy.
  • AusAID will conduct consultations with select thematic teams and country posts to ensure the Development for All Strategy – Performance Assessment Framework meets program’s requirements.
  • A Performance Information Team, made up of external technical advisors with experience in M&E and appreciative and strengths based approaches will be established to support AusAID implement the Performance Assessment Framework, including pilots in one country and one thematic program to test the methodology.
  • DIDT priorities for the remainder of 2010 and early 2011 were outlined:
  • Transition planning, mobilisation of the new regional specialist positions and filling new positions in line with the approved resource bid.
  • Participation in the upcoming Australian Disability and Development Consortium meeting in Darwin, September 2010.
  • Visit to Papua New Guinea to discuss possible expansion of the Disability Rights Fund with AusAID Post and Government.
  • WHO World Report on Disability launch (3 December 2010).
  • Support for AusAID’s attendance at the MDG Summit.
  • Introduction of regional specialists to their respective programs in Asia (Ms Megan McCoy) and the Pacific (Ms Christina Parasyn).
  • Finalisation and publishing of the Development for All Strategy Report Card.
  • Completion of the AusAID staff survey on disability inclusive development and formulation of recommendations resulting from the findings.
  • Development of the Disability Inclusive Development Delivery Strategy.
  • Finalisation of the Performance Assessment Framework and establishment of the Performance Information Team.
  • Finalise arrangements with the Pacific Disability Forum for DPO capacity building.
  • Execute agreements with WHO and UNICEF on disability inclusive development cooperation.
  • Completion of agency guidance materials on Universal Design, Universal Mobility Index, Recycled Spectacles, Wheelchair Procurement, and Assistive Devices.

Other issues

  • Both DRG and AusAID noted the meeting provided a valuable opportunity to hear directly from Posted officers engaged in delivering Australia’s aid program. It also allowed in-country AusAID staff to learn from and tap into the perspectives and expertise of the DRG, to address implementation issues and inform integration of disability in development programs being managed at Post.
  • 2011 DRG Meetings: the DRG agreed to conduct a virtual meeting in January/February 2011 to specifically consider the DIDT Delivery Strategy, the Development for All Strategy mid term review process and progress on implementing the Performance Assessment Framework.

Last reviewed: 4 April, 2012