Global Disability Summit

People with disabilities account for 1 billion of the world’s population. Too often they are among the most marginalised and discriminated against groups – and too often international development efforts have continued to leave them behind.

The upcoming Global Disability Summit, held in London on 24th July, is a chance to change this by building on the work of Liberal Democrats in government to promote disability-inclusive development. The Summit, hosted by DFID, the government of Kenya, and the International Disability Alliance will be the first of its kind with attendees from governments and NGOs from across the world.

A liberal worldview recognises the inherent value of every individual, and as Liberal Democrats, we must challenge the inequalities faced by people with disabilities in developing countries.

In government, the Liberal Democrats helped lead the change on disability-inclusive development. Lynne Featherstone championed the rights of people with disabilities during her time at DFID. Her work led to the ground-breaking Disability Framework – putting disability at the heart of what DFID does and ensuring it moved from a ‘tick box exercise’ to being mainstreamed across all of DFID’s work.

It’s common sense that all programmes should reach people with disabilities – schools should be accessible, healthcare inclusive, stigma challenged – the individual recognised and given the opportunity to flourish.

Liberal Democrats are rightly proud of what we achieved in government. The Global Disability Summit leads on from the change we made when given a chance. However, there is more to do.

Across the world 19 million children with disabilities are denied access to quality education, many people with disabilities face health inequalities and a gap in their quality of life while too often women and girls face a ‘double discrimination’ based on their gender and disability.

The Global Disability Summit will bring together politicians and voices from civil society, and I hope for firm policy and funding commitments. A follow-up Summit will allow the world to track progress, and I am calling on the government to support another country in hosting this critical tool for scrutiny.

Organisations like Sightsavers are working with people with disabilities to call on politicians to ‘put us in the picture’. That message resonates with me when I see the missed opportunities for the individual but also broader development that is caused by excluding people with disabilities.

I want the Liberal Democrats to be bold on upholding the rights of people with disabilities so I will work to ensure our party builds on its previous successes to put together a liberal policy platform for disability inclusion – embedding it in our approach to international development. We must ensure the government sticks to its promises on this while encouraging them to go further.

The Global Disability Summit provides the perfect moment for us to build on what the Liberal Democrats achieved in government. We should be proud of our record, but I intend for us to go further and ensure no one is left behind.


* Shas Sheehan is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Helen Dudden 11th Jul '18 - 10:48pm

    Yes, more should be done for those who are young, with depression. Only tonight online, in Somerset Live a 17 year ends his life. So very sad.
    Depression is an illness. The problems with it being invisible is one issue.
    I feel so sad for the family, I know we have a young person who has suffered for 5 years. It is gradually getting easier.

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