The first Global Disability Summit in the United Kingdom was held on 24th July 2018 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. The Summit was co-hosted by the United Kingdom Government, the UK Department for International Development, the Government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance (IDA). About 700 delegates from governments, donors, the private sector, Non-Governmental Organisations and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) attended the Summit. The Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno graced the Summit and called on leaders to step up efforts towards fighting stigma and discrimination against persons with disabilities.
The Kenyan Delegation to the Summit was led by Hon. Ukur Yatani, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. It comprised of officials from the ministries of Labour, Transport and Infrastructure, National Treasury and Foreign Affairs which are considered key to the implementation of policies related to disability inclusion. Other members of the delegation included Senators Hon. Sakaja Johnson and Hon. Isaac Mwaura, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore and officials from the Kenya High Commission, London among others.
The objective of the Summit was to contribute to transforming the lives of people with disabilities by raising global attention and focus on a hugely neglected area, mobilizing new global and national commitments to meet and implement the ambition set out in the global goals and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and showcasing best practice and evidence from across the World. Discussions at the forum focused on four major themes: dignity and respect for all; inclusive education; economic empowerment and technology & innovation.
Speaking at the Summit, Hon. Ukur Yatani said that Kenya was committed to providing the necessary policy framework towards establishing an environment to regularise standards on innovation for development and importation of assistive technology. He noted that Kenya was at an advanced stage of establishing an assistive technology hub in partnership with major stakeholders. Further, the Cabinet Secretary underscored that Kenya had signed and ratified international instruments of law pertaining to education for all, including children with disabilities and special educational needs. He highlighted that on 25th May 2018, H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the 2018 Education Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities.
The Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore announced at the summit that the company intends to increase the number of staff living with disabilities to five percent by March 2021, up from the current 1.7 percent, as part of its strategic business objectives. He said that focus on diversity and inclusion had seen Safaricom reach out to minorities such as people with disabilities in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) eight on decent work and economic growth, and SDG 10 on reduced inequalities,”
Hon. Penny Mordaunt, the UK Secretary of State for International Development speaking at the Forum highlighted that the UK Government chose Kenya as a co-host because of its legislative record on disability; its early signing of the UN disability convention and the country’s relationship and strength of civil society disabled people’s organizations. She stressed that people with disabilities in the world’s poorest countries have not been able to fulfill their potential due to stigma or lack of practical support. Hon. Penny Mordaunt emphasized that the Forum was about all working together, sharing ideas and good practice to ensure that as the international community work towards a more prosperous world no one is left behind.
The Civil Society played a crucial role in the Summit including the preparation of the Statement on Action on Inclusive Education which commits organizations to concrete actions to improve the lives of tens of millions of children with disabilities in low-income countries who are currently shut out from school. The Statement gained commitments from influential actors including the Global Campaign for Education, Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Bank. In addition, the International Disability Alliance ensured strong representation and inputs from Disabled People Organisations around the world.
The main outcome document from the Summit was the Charter of Change which reflected commitments undertaken by Governments, Multilateral and Private Sector organisations, Foundations, Civil society and research organisations towards the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals for persons with disabilities. The Charter for Change was signed by 301 organizations and governments including Kenya.
In this context, the forum resulted in 170 ambitious commitments from all over the world to take action on stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities. These commitments followed the call to “move from rhetoric to action” from Hon. Penny Mordaunt, in the build-up to the Summit. The forum resolved to create various measures and policies to ensure the disabled get access to education, health, and equal employment opportunities.