The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) – an alliance of Deaf and Disabled people and our organisations in England – notes the global disability summit being held in London at the end of July, co-hosted by the UK government and Kenya. We are strongly in favour of international support that improves the lives of Deaf and Disabled people across the world and welcome co-operation between States that lead to stronger human rights laws and protections. We particularly support the building of international solidarity and links directly between Deaf and Disabled People, our organisations and campaigns.
Regarding the July summit, we have a number of concerns:
• The role of the UK government in co-hosting the event. The UK government has been found responsible for grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights due to welfare reform and continues to dismiss the findings and expertise of the UN disability committee. Their involvement undermines any aims of the summit linked to strengthening Deaf and Disabled people’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and provides a platform for them to showcase to other States how it is possible to get away with ignoring those rights when it comes to your own citizens.
• The UK government has used international work to cynically deflect from criticisms of their disability record in the UK. On a number of occasions when government ministers have been criticised for implementing policies with an adverse impact on Deaf and Disabled people, they have cited the poorer conditions of Disabled people in other countries. This represents a misunderstanding of the UN CRPD which is about the progressive realisation of rights. The UN disability committee have such concern about the situation in the UK because it represents a serious and dramatic retrogression of rights, described by the Chair as a ‘human catastrophe’. In deflecting attention from their record in the UK, the Government clearly intend to more easily continue their punitive policies targeted at Disabled people and the poorest members of society. There is now overwhelming evidence, evidence which the UN disability committee considered, that prove the brutal impacts of these policies. It would be a betrayal to all those suffering under them not to raise concerns about attempts such as use of the global summit to divert attention and opposition to those policies.
• The Department for International Development (DFID) is commissioning a £27m Disability Inclusive Development (DID) Programme which has excluded UK Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) from the design and delivery. UK DDPOs have been excluded from disability and development cooperation since our Government signed and ratified the UN CRPD in spite of articles 3 and 32. DFID instead favours working with charities FOR Disabled people and International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) which have all failed to mainstream disability in their own organisations or cooperate with UK DDPOs in their work.
We call on Deaf and Disabled people and our allies to:
• challenge these disablist policies and practices that disproportionately and negatively impact on Deaf and Disabled people and that dehumanise and erase our different human identities
• stand in solidarity with Deaf and Disabled people in the UK who are on the receiving end of the grave and systematic violations of our rights and promote stronger rights and protections for Deaf and Disabled people globally
• celebrate and build international links of solidarity between our struggles – we are demanding UK DDPOs and DDPOs from the South receive support from DFID to collaborate to create disability equality, justice and human rights globally
To this end we are planning the following activities in which we hope you will join us:
• International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit – for Deaf and Disabled people and our allies to explore issues relating to our struggles against oppression and co-ordinating our resistance. International DDPO representatives in London for the government hosted summit are invited to join us at this event. For more information see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/international-deaf-and-disabled-peoples-solidarity-summit-tickets-47524826034
• Online and social media activities to be announced.