Open Letter to some of those attending the Global Disability Summit
Lenin Moreno, President of Ecuador
Gabriela Michetti, Vice President of Argentina
20 July 2018
We are writing this open letter to you on behalf of Deaf and Disabled people across the UK concerning your involvement in the global disability summit being co-hosted by the UK government in London on 23 and 24 July.
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.
However, we have the following concerns regarding the July summit:
The role of the UK government in co-hosting the event. Following an unprecedented investigation carried out by the UN disability committee under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), the UK was found responsible for grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights due to welfare reform. The findings of their investigation, published in November 2016, were and continue to be entirely dismissed by the UK government. In August 2017 the UK government was routinely examined under the UN CRPD and again the UN disability committee expressed their deep concerns regarding the UK government’s failure to understand the Convention, the impact of their policies and failure to recognise them. Again the UK government said they disagreed with the findings of the Committee. The involvement of the UK government in co-hosting the summit therefore undermines any aims of the summit linked to strengthening Deaf and Disabled people’s rights under the UN CRPD. Instead it 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’s use of its 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 suitability of the Government of Kenya as co-hosts given their abuse of the rights of LGBTQI+ people, many of whom develop lifelong impairments as a result. LGBTQI+ people in Kenya are routinely banished from their families, denied work and accommodation, imprisoned and persecuted. They face severe barriers to forming and maintaining relationships and to living as a couple, the ‘Right to Family Life’ that every human is promised. This results in widespread damage to their mental and physical health, creating impairments where none previously existed. This is reflected in the high level of asylum applications to the UK from LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from African countries.
Despite their experiences, the majority are then refused asylum in the UK and forcibly returned home, where many disappear or are murdered. Just this April, President Kenyatta said that LGBT rights are “not acceptable” and not “an issue of human rights”. The Kenyan Government has also claimed this is a non-issue for Kenyans, and no doubt would argue that it has nothing to do with the Summit. However, if you are Kenyan or Ugandan and are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex, it is an issue that completely dominates and dictates your life. For many Disabled people from Kenya, it is the reason they developed an impairment in the first place. Under the UN CRPD, the Kenyan government also has an obligation to protect the rights of disabled people who are LGBTQI+.
We appreciate that you may not have had this information when you agreed to involvement in the summit and would be happy to meet to discuss our concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or for further information.
Disabled People Against Cuts dpac.uk.net
Sisters of Frida sisofrida.org
Alliance for Inclusive Education allfie.org.uk
Inclusion London inclusionlondon.org.uk
Mental Health Resistance Network mentalhealthresistance.org
Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance rofa.org.uk
Recovery in the Bin recoveryinthebin.org