The UK government’s hypocrisy in hosting a global ‘disability summit’ is about to be exposed

Global Disability Summit logo and Theresa May
Steve Topple

On 24 July, the UK is hosting a ‘Global Disability Summit’. But the event is already under intense scrutiny, not least for what disabled people are calling the ‘hypocrisy’ of the UK government hosting it. This is because the UN has previously accused the government and its Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of committing “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights in the UK.

“Major commitments” for disabled people?

The UK government says the Global Disability Summit will:

bring together more than 700 delegates from governments, donors, private sector organisations, charities and organisations of persons with disabilities.

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It says the event on 24 July in London:

is built around major commitments to be made around four major themes (dignity and respect for all, inclusive education, economic empowerment and technology & innovation) and includes additional cross-cutting and strategic spotlight sessions.

A different vision

But the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) campaign group has hit back. In its role as part of the ‘Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance’, it has organised its own “International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit”. Taking place on 22 July, it will host speakers from across the world, and aims to “explore issues” around “oppression, resistance and international solidarity”.

While DPAC is not directly promoting its summit as a counter-event to the UK government’s one, the inference appears clear. Because the group has also hit back at what it calls the ‘hypocrisy’ of Theresa May’s government hosting the event.

The UK government and the DWP: “grave” and “systematic” human rights violations

You can read DPAC’s full statement here. But it has numerous concerns. These include the fear that the UK government’s involvement undermines the aims of the Global Disability Summit. This is, in part, because of a UN verdict after investigating successive UK governments and the DWP. It said there had been “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights, resulting in a “human catastrophe”.

DPAC says the summit gives:

a platform for [the UK government] to showcase to other States how it is possible to get away with ignoring those rights when it comes to your own citizens.

The campaign group also raises the issue of the UK government “cynically” deflecting criticisms of itself by citing the “the poorer conditions of disabled people in other countries”. It also criticised the Department for International Development (DFID) for not including deaf and disabled people’s organisations in the planning of a £27m development programme.

‘Hypocrites’

Ellen Clifford from DPAC told The Canary:

We are strongly in favour of international support that improves the lives of Deaf and Disabled people across the world. We welcome co-operation between states that leads to stronger human rights laws and protections. However, we are concerned that the UK government’s recent history with the DWP of driving its own disabled citizens into degrading and inhumane conditions… makes it a poor fit to host such an event.

Can a future of support and inclusion for disabled people around the world really be their aim? It’s entirely hypocritical for the UK government to be calling on other countries to deliver the aims set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. This is because not only have they been found to be in breach of it, but have furthermore ignored and dismissed the concerns of the UN disability committee.

And it’s not just DPAC raising its concerns. Regard, the UK organisation for disabled LGBTQ+ people, said that, due to the country’s abuse of the LGBTQ+ community:

The involvement of the Government of Kenya discredits any debate that takes place at the Summit. Whatever the political reasons for involving Kenya in co-hosting the Summit, the rights and welfare of Disabled people seem to have had very little to do with it.

It will be interesting to see just what comes of the Global Disability Summit. But for DPAC, the hypocrisy of the UK government in hosting it is hard to get away from.

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Featured image via UK government – screengrab and Guardian News – YouTube

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