July 2023 marks 15 years since the UK ratified the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The Bond Disability and Development Group (DDG) – representing 306 members and 116 organisations – reflects on this landmark moment, and how we can both celebrate progress and partner with the UK government to advance the rights of people with disabilities around the world.
What is the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and why is it important?
Adopted on 13 December 2006, the CRPD is an internationally agreed human rights convention, ratified by 186 nation states – including the UK. The CRPD promotes, protects and ensures the human rights and inherent dignity of people with disabilities. Its principles of non-discrimination, equality of opportunity and accessibility apply across all areas of life. Articles 11 and 32 commit states to ensuring that their international humanitarian and development action is inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.
George Sempangi, co-chair of the Disability and Development Group, with lived disability experience based in Uganda, commented:
As we celebrate 15 years since the ratification of the CRPD it is acknowledged that the UK government has been a leader in the global advancement to ensure that the rights of peoples with disabilities are upheld. However, much more remains to be done, and we urge the UK government to ensure that the implementation of articles 11 and 32 is on track.George Sempangi, co-chair of the Disability and Development Group
What have we achieved since UK ratification?
In the last 15 years, the UK government has made progress in implementing the CRPD in their international development and humanitarian action. The inception of DFID’s first Disability Framework in 2014, their co-hosting of the first ever Global Disability Summit and launching the first Disability Strategy in 2018, demonstrates the UK’s continued commitment to disability inclusion internationally.
The UK has also taken a thoughtful approach to international programming and funding which puts people with disabilities at the very centre. This includes the Disability Inclusive Development (DID) programme and finance for the Disability Rights Fund. Both assist to provide a solid evidence base of what works, based on what people with disabilities themselves say, and directly fund Organisations of People with Disabilities in the Global South.
In 2020, the UK launched a Theory of Change for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for global development and subsequently funded the first disability-inclusive child safeguarding guidelines – indicating a willingness to show leadership in areas where there are gaps in knowledge.
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In 2022, the DDG welcomed the FCDO Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy (DIRS), which further cements the ambition to deliver real change by meaningfully engaging people with disabilities and their representative organisations. In line with consultations with the DDG, the strategy acknowledges the role of intersectionality; increased risk of violence faced by women and girls with disabilities; lack of educational opportunities and the need to expand into climate change and health, areas where the rights of people with disabilities are often neglected.
Throughout this period, the Bond DDG and our working groups partnered, supported, encouraged and fed into these initiatives through our valuable relationship with the FCDO, particularly the Disability Inclusion Team.
What is the current state of play?
There are an estimated 1.3 billion people with disabilities globally. This number is expected to double by 2050. People with disabilities on average experience poverty at more than twice the rate of persons without disabilities and are between two to four times more likely to be impacted by climate change than those without disabilities.
Women with disabilities face greater exclusion from education, healthcare and good nutrition, with up to 70% experiencing sexual abuse before 18 years of age. Children with disabilities are twice as likely never to attend school, three times more likely to be underweight and four times more likely to experience physical violence. UK leadership in this area remains critical.
What challenges lie ahead?
Global crises alongside cuts to Official Development Assistance (ODA) continue to disproportionately impact people with disabilities, and the positive ambitious commitments in the DIRS will not be met without tangible targets and proper resourcing. To be a success, adequate funding must go hand-in-hand with transparency, indicators and timelines that enable real and meaningful accountability.
Neither the 2022 International Development Strategy nor the recent International Women and Girls Strategy reference the DIRS or have a strong reference to disability inclusion. Reassurances that disability will be a focus in delivery plans for these strategies going forward are welcomed and important, alongside a commitment to meaningfully engage with Organisations of People with Disabilities in programming – enabling disability inclusion to cut across all FCDO work.
What needs to happen?
The UK’s leadership on disability must not be jeopardised or put at risk.
To build on these excellent foundations, the UK must provide proper funding and harness the full force of its diplomatic and global influence to promote the rights of people with disabilities. The DDG stands ready to support the whole FCDO and UK government to increase the participation of people with disabilities in programme delivery for a more inclusive, prosperous world for all.