The Global Disability Summit: What will happen next?

Last month saw the first Global Disability Summit, but what was it exactly and what actually happened? Hosted by the UK government, alongside the government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance, the summit took place on the 24th July in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The summit saw over 700 delegates attend, including government representatives, donors, private sector organisations, charities and disability organisations in attendance.

The summit was the brain child of the UK’s Department of International Development and the announcement in 2016 that it wanted to become a global disability leader. International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt called for a “move from rhetoric to action” and so the global Disability Summit was born, setting the aim to “stand alongside people with disabilities in their countries, commit to ending stigma, and fully value the contribution they can make to the success of their nations.” [Penny Mordaunt]

Many ambitious statements and commitments were made. 33 governments pledged to support disabled people in areas suffering a humanitarian crisis, such as Syria. 18 governments pledged to new action plans on disability inclusion. 9 organisations including the UK Government and the World Health Organisation joined the Global Partnership on Assistive Technology, which aims to transform the access to, and affordability of, assistive technology. 9 national governments committed to passing or formulating new laws, especially with regards to the rights of disabled people. 9 African governments committed to creating safety nets to make sure that disabled people in their countries are not forgotten about.

Though statements of support are admirable one can’t help butt notice that the wording is all rather vague. So what do these commitments and pledges look like in reality? How does a promise translate to policy? Well, the examples below are some of the more specific examples that have come from the summit that show what this will look like in practice.

  • The World Bank made a number of commitments, most importantly it pledged to embed inclusion throughout it’s operations by use of it’s Disability Inclusion Accountability Framework.
  • The World Bank also committed to disaggregating data by disability using the Washington Group Questions, which ask about the level of difficulty a person experiences day to day, rather than asking whether a person considers themselves disabled or not.
  • UN Women launched a disability strategy that aims to put women and girls with disabilities at the heart of it’s work.
  • The United Nations system (through the UN Development Programme) shared it’s system wide action plan on disability to make inclusion a core part of the UN system. It also announced it’s intention to publish a disability accountability framework by the end of 2019.

The challenge now is going to be turning words into actions. What will the accountability framework look like? Will there be a follow up summit within the next five years to ascertain whether countries and organisations are sticking to their promises? The summit has been met with a vastly positive response, with onlookers hopeful and keen to see what the results of the pledges made will be.