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What is it?

The guidance note Leaving no one behind - Disability inclusion in EU external action supports EU external cooperation staff and partners in integrating the rights of persons with disabilities across the work, including in policy, programming and implementation of actions.

This note is aligned with the human rights-based approach (HRBA) and its toolbox by having a more in-depth look at the rights of persons with disabilities. It contributes to implement the EU’s action plan on human rights and democracy.

The Guidance note provides tools and concepts for implementing disability inclusion throughout international cooperation, empower persons with disabilities and promote their rights through specific actions. It also outlines the key policy framework and commitments to underpin disability as a cross-cutting theme in EU external action. It highlights accessibility and inclusion as key concepts in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in all external work.

What can it be used for?

The note gives guidance and examples on designing, implementing, and monitoring inclusive interventions. Signpost to further resources, references and organisations working for disability inclusion.

When can it be used?

The Guideline can be used throughout intervention cycle, from programming to design, implementation and closure, and in all related activities (e.g., in designing monitoring & evaluation systems).

Who can use it?

All EU staff and their partners working on external action

What are its strengths?

The guidance presents the topic in a comprehensive yet clearly structured way. Including policy framework, approaches, methods as well as examples, it constitutes a complete hands-on guidance for integrating disability rights in EC interventions.

What are its limitations?

While the note provides guidance on mainstreaming of disability inclusion in EU cooperation, it does provide limited examples on different cooperation sectors. Specific sector brief notes complement the Guidance and will be progressively be developed (see complementary tools)


Key elements

The guide is structured along seven main chapters:

Chapter 1: Introduction.

Chapter 2: introduces the ‘what?’; it presents the current situation for persons with disabilities in the world and looks at barriers that undermine the rights of persons with disabilities.

Chapter 3: outlines the ‘why?’; in particular, it explains why disability is a cross-cutting concern for EU external action and reiterates the policy framework.

Chapter 4: explains how to apply key disability inclusion concepts and approaches across the human-rights-based approach in external cooperation.

Chapter 5: provides guidance on disability inclusion at different stages in the intervention cycle.

Chapter 6: looks at how the EU, as a public administration, can lead by example on disability inclusion.

Chapter 7: points to key resources and good examples for further reading and tools that can help.

Other than the main text, every chapter include a number of “boxes”. These contain key messages, direct references to internal and external resources (e.g. legal framework, survey methodologies) and example from the fields. All can easily be extracted to be used according to specific needs (e.g. policy dialogue with the partner country; intervention focused discussion with implementing partner; design of the monitoring system…). Other boxes facilitate understanding and use of the appropriate language and vocabulary when mainstreaming disability.   






Facilities and materials. 

Financial costs and sources. 

Tips and tricks


Where to find it

The European Commission, 2023: Guidance note on Disability inclusion in EU external action 

Complementary guides, methodologies and tools

The European Commission, 2021Commission Staff Working Document - Applying the Human Rights Based Approach to international partnerships 

The European Commission, 2021 The Human Rights Based Approach Toolkit 

Capacity4Dev  - Disability Inclusion for EU staff Group: Technical brief: Disability Inclusion and Climate Priorities

Capacity4Dev  - Disability Inclusion for EU staff Group: Technical brief and resources on gender equality and disability