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MRG makes commitments at the 2022 Global Disability Summit to promote underrepresented groups facing intersectional discrimination

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Ms. Gauli Damai is being helped into her wheelchair by her family; a woman with a baby strapped to her back is helping to arrange her legs and a young boy helps to lift her under the arms from behind.

By Lauren Avery, Minority and Disability Intersectional Discrimination Project Officer at Minority Rights Group (MRG)

What is the summit about?

The second Global Disability Summit (GDS22) takes place this week, hosted by the government of Norway and International Disability Alliance. The last Summit was held in London in 2018 and was heralded as ‘a historic event for disability inclusion’.

GDS22 invites stakeholders, including national governments, multilateral agencies, donors, foundations, the private sector and civil society organizations, to make commitments on specific themes. There are 63 specific commitments under five central themes covering areas such as strengthening engagement with organizations of persons with disabilities, in particular in the Global South, and greater inclusion across education, health, livelihoods and social protection and in situations of conflict and crisis, including from climate change.

The commitments listed under the Charter for Change in 2018 included just one reference to people with disabilities affected by multiple forms of discrimination, and there was little mention of intersectionality or of issues experienced by persons with disabilities from indigenous or minority communities. A review of the final 968 individual commitments made by stakeholders under the 2018 Charter shows that only two of them referenced indigenous peoples and three referenced minority groups.

Are minorities and indigenous peoples included in this year’s commitments?

There are an estimated one billion persons with disabilities living across the globe, out of which approximately 54 million are indigenous. The issues faced by indigenous persons with disabilities, however, remain unaddressed in policies relating to disability and those related to indigenous peoples. For people with disabilities belonging to ethnic, linguistic and religious minority communities around the world, similar issues resulting from structural and intersectional discrimination remain ignored and exacerbated by lack of disaggregated data, high levels of poverty, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impacts of climate change and conflict.

This year’s commitments reflect the progress made since 2018 in recognising the need to address intersectionality in the disability rights movement and reach marginalized persons with disabilities. Commitments to include underrepresented groups, address intersectionality and support partnerships with other social movements make specific reference to ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and under-represented groups facing intersectional discrimination and highlight the importance of a coordinated approach to promote the rights of these groups.

In partnership with the Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network, International Disability Alliance, Vidas Negras com Deficiência Brazil and other partners, MRG is holding a GDS22 side event on Wednesday 16 February at 18:00 CET. The focus will be on drawing attention to the importance of strengthening partnerships between organizations spanning social movements, identifying the support they need and inviting the Summit’s stakeholders to commit to ensuring that no one is left behind during the global recovery efforts from the pandemic. Initiating dialogue on how to ensure that people with disabilities belonging to indigenous, minority and other marginalized communities, including women and girls, is crucial to efforts to ‘build back better’. Doing so is one way to ensure that these persons are not left behind in their rights to education, healthcare and economic participation.

MRG’s commitments at Global Disability Summit 2022

MRG has made the following three commitments ahead of the GDS22. Not only do they align with the Summit’s themes, but they also relate to MRG’s mandate and ongoing work on disability and intersectionality. The commitments will form the basis for MRG’s disability inclusion standards or other related policies moving forward.

1. Reduce discrimination and stigmatization by promoting attitudinal change in communities and across all development cooperation, and addressing intersectionalities.

MRG will make and use opportunities to help all our staff members and minority and indigenous partners to be aware of disability discrimination and its impacts within communities and to address it within our programmes, including by providing disability rights training and connecting partners with organizations of persons with disabilities.

2. Promote underrepresented groups and address intersectionality

MRG’s mandate focuses on protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. MRG also mainstreams gender throughout its work and has a policy on intersectional discrimination that recognizes the need to raise awareness of this issue since minorities and indigenous peoples are not homogeneous, and children, young adults, social class groups, older people, people with disabilities, people with HIV/AIDS, and sexual and gender minorities, among others, may be treated differently, may assume different roles and may have different access to resources and power. MRG commits to the continued inclusion of persons with disabilities from indigenous and minority communities, as reflected in its 2021-2024 strategy.

3. Support partnerships with other social movements

As an organization with a mandate focused on minority and indigenous rights, MRG will continue to make and use opportunities to link with organizations of persons with disabilities in contexts where we work. MRG commits to encourage and support the disability movement and minority and/or indigenous movements to share information and collaborate via joint advocacy, training, coalition building meetings and other initiatives as appropriate.

For more information about MRG’s commitments at this year’s Summit, visit the GDS Commitments Portal here.

Photo: Ms. Gauli Damai is helped into her wheelchair by her family. Credit: Krishna Gahatraj.

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