LONDON — Tuesday’s Global Disability Summit in London yielded 170 commitments to increase disability inclusion and tackle stigma in lower-income countries, according to the United Kingdom government, from financial pledges, to in-kind devices and technology, to new or amended action plans and charters. But some worried that parts of the disability community were left out, while others described a disconnect between large humanitarian agencies and specialist disability-focused organizations.
Hosted by the U.K. Department for International Development, the Kenyan government and the International Disability Alliance, the summit marked the first time the humanitarian and development sectors have come together formally to plan action on making aid more inclusive of people with disabilities. More than 800 delegates from government, civil society, and the private sector attended to discuss four themes: Addressing stigma; supporting inclusive education; economic empowerment; and technology and providing better access to devices.
“We have a good example of what works: We’ve been doing this for many years on gender, and we’re applying the same principles to disability,” Penny Mordaunt, secretary of state for international development, told Devex on the sidelines of the event.
“Later this year, we’re going to be announcing a more structured framework as to how we take this forward with all of our work and all of our funding,” she said, adding “it’s about having that framework so it’s absolutely embedded in everything we do, just like we did with women and girls.”
On top of the new framework and other commitments, DFID also launched the Charter for Change, an action plan for implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed in 2006 but only saw renewed enthusiasm from donors a decade later.
“One of the biggest challenges is that there are very few role models, very few good [practices] for people to learn from, and you have to have people with disabilities actually in the spotlight to actually demonstrate the capacities, the decision making, the lived experience,” Kirsty Smith, chief executive of disability charity CBM UK, told Devex. “While they aren’t there, you can continue to think of people with disabilities as ‘the other,’ and I think that’s where they have stayed.”
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