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Open Access Understanding the Political and Institutional Conditions for Effective Poverty Reduction for Persons with Disabilities in Liberia – ESRC

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This research will address the overarching question 'What political and institutional conditions are associated with effective poverty reduction and development, and what can domestic and external actors do to promote these conditions?' It will do this by focusing on one country, Liberia, and exploring in-depth the relationship between national and international institutions and actors to understand how the linkages and processes between state and society are benefiting one of the most marginalised populations – persons with disabilities.

It is argued that persons with disabilities tend to be among the poorest in the world (Groce et al 2011), particularly in lower income and post-conflict countries. They frequently face social exclusion, marginalisation and stigmatisation. This generally implies they have limited "political voice", which is reflected in a lack of attention to disability issues within national policies, in particular those aimed at poverty alleviation. As a result, the living conditions of persons with disabilities tend to worsen over time, facilitating a frequently discussed reciprocal link between disability and poverty – a 'vicious circle' – that produces a spiral of increasing deprivation.

However, the Government of Liberia is trying to break this circle. Since the end of the brutal civil conflict in 2003 and the election of Africa's first female President in 2005, Liberia has taken a number of steps to try to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. It has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and has supported the establishment of a National Commission on Disability. One of the major international actors, the United Nations, through the Human Rights and Protection Section (HRPS) of the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL), has been instrumental in facilitating a productive interchange and constant dialogue between the Liberian government and civil society, as well as increasing the human rights focus in national poverty reduction and policy development. These actions are based on the premise that it is possible to promote and foster a 'virtuous circle' in which the efforts of the Liberian Government can be reinforced through an iterative feedback process from persons with disabilities and their organisations. In order to understand this iterative process, further work needs to be undertaken using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to better understand the impact of policies and programmes on the lives of persons with disabilities across Liberia.

The promotion of wellbeing for persons with disabilities and their families is crucial in achieving equitable development, as measured by indicators such as the Millennium Development Goals, particularly considering the recent shift in the criteria for measuring country-level development performance from economic production to people's wellbeing (Stiglitz et al. 2009). This shift entails new challenges, different assessment and evaluation procedures, multidisciplinary theoretical approaches and new analytical strategies.

This research will represent a first attempt to use an innovative approach to broaden knowledge in this area by surveying families that have at least one member with a disability, assessing quality of life indicators from different members within the same household, and analysing the information using methodologies which take into account the nested nature of this data. In addition, the research will be situated within the on-going international debate on wellbeing. Due to the complexity of both multidimensional poverty and disability issues, a multidisciplinary approach will be used and a broad range of stakeholders will be involved throughout the process, including disabled peoples organisations, NGOs, and universities.

If successful, the research project will be submitted to the UCL Ethics Committee for approval.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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