The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Disability

NEW: Secretary-General Report on the MDG’s (released 6 July 2015)
Summary here

UN Publication: Disability and the Millennium Development Goals: A Review of the MDG Process and Strategies for Inclusion of Disability Issues in Millennium Development Goal Efforts (PDF, 7.7 MB; accessible version forthcoming)

About the MDGs


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established a unifying set of developmental objectives for the global community.  Bringing together United Nations agencies, governments and civil society around eight key development issues, the MDGs foster collaborative action to reduce poverty, improve health and address educational and environmental concerns around the world’s most pressing development problems.  The MDGs are specifically designed to address the needs of the world’s poorest citizens and the world’s most marginalized populations.

MDGs will not be achieved however if their policies, programmes, monitoring and evaluation do not include persons with disabilities.  While persons with disabilities make up ten per cent of the world’s population, disability is associated with twenty per cent of global poverty according to the World Bank’s findings.  Currently, there are no references to persons with disabilities either in the MDGs themselves or in the accompanying body of guidelines and policies, programmes and conferences that are part of the on-going MDG efforts.  In addition, the new revisions of the MDGs currently in process do not include persons with disabilities.

The international community needs urgently to act to mainstream disability in the MDG processes.  This requires policy makers and technical experts specifically tasked with the programming, monitoring and evaluation of current MDG programmes to begin to consider disability so that the next phase of the implementation of the MDGs will include disability as an important component of its core mission.

Millennium Development Goals’ page
Millennium Development Goal Indicators and Statistics

United Nations Expert Group meeting on the MDGs

The United Nations Expert Group meeting on Mainstreaming Disability in MDG Policies, Processes and Mechanisms: Development for All worked to develop a “roadmap” for how disability can be included in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of all MDG related plans, programmes and policies in international development currently in operation or in the planning stage.


  • The Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved without the full and effective inclusion of persons with disabilities and their participation in all stages of the MDGs processes.
  • The current MDGs framework, tools and mechanisms provide several opportunities to mainstream disability in the MDGs.
  • The existing data gaps on disability within the context of the MDG evaluation and monitoring continues to be a major challenge. Available data, however, could be used to support the inclusion of disability in current MDG evaluation and monitoring processes, while on-going and new MDG evaluation and monitoring efforts should add a disability component as part of their overall data collection endeavours.
  • Specific measures should be taken for mainstreaming disability at global, regional and national levels for short-term, medium-term and long-term results.
  • With a view to the 2010 periodic review, priority should be given at this time to targeting actions at the global level in the context of monitoring.
  • Collaborations should be initiated within the United Nations system and with relevant stakeholders to foster strategic thinking and planning on the MDGs and disability. In this regard, establishing an informal resource group could ensure that a platform for on-going dialogue and feed back is possible.



  • Some specific options where disability may be mainstreamed include: (a) reports, tools and guidelines; (b) specific MDGs and MDG indicators and (c) mechanisms and processes.

Reports, tools and guidelines

  • At the global level, two main areas of strategic action for short-term results include the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the organization and the Millennium Development Goals report.
  • Tools and guidelines that would be effective entry points to mainstream disability in monitoring of MDG policies, processes and mechanisms at the national level would be the handbook on Indicators for Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals—Definitions, Rationale, Concepts and sources and at the national level, theguidance note on the Country Reporting on the Millennium Development Goals.

MGDs and MDG indicators

  • All MDGs are relevant to and affect the lives of persons with disabilities.
  • Focusing on the inclusion of disability in current indicators would be more effective in the short-term to promote the inclusion of disability data than proposing new indicators.
  • Where data is not available, options of where and how disability could be addressed should be provided. The absence of data may also be an indication, among other things, of the lack of attention that disability may receive in the context of a particular issue.
  • The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) should propose options to Inter-Agency Expert Group on MDG indicators to mainstream disability in its work.
  • UNSD should engage with national statistical offices to increase awareness and build capacities to collect disaggregated data on disability.

Processes and Mechanisms 

  • The IAEG could provide guidance and support on how disability could be mainstreamed.
  • At the regional level, Regional Commissions who work in cooperation with regional partners, United Nations specialized agencies and other development partners such as regional development banks could use disability supplementary targets by region in their regional analysis.
  • Other entry points/mechanisms include: the Second Committee of the General Assembly as well as human rights treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Committee on the Rights of the Child; Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

General Assembly Resolutions:

Commission for Social Development Resolution:


Secretary General Reports:

Economic and Social Council Report:


Expert Group Meetings

Expert Group Meeting on Mainstreaming Disability in MDG policies, processes and mechanisms: Development for All, 2009