The UK Government is committed to creating opportunities for disabled people to fulfil their potential to be fully participating members of society and to removing barriers which impede this. The UN Convention, now ratified by 127 countries (at the time of writing) creates legal obligations for States Parties and provides a basis on which the UK promotes equality for disabled people in the UK and across the world.
Following the submission in November 2011 of our first periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on how we are implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we successfully supported the election of a UK expert, Diane Mulligan, to the committee in September. She will bring a wealth of skill, commitment and expertise to her role. We participated actively in the 5th Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention in September.
In 2012, we used our role as host nation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to highlight the power of sport to deliver the vision of the UN Convention. Disabled people were actively involved in the planning, design and delivery of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. For the first time, the Olympics and Paralympics were conceived, planned and delivered as one, with both given equal priority and attention. The UK is proud to have welcomed the highest ever number of participating Paralympic teams at a games, including from countries who competed for the first time, such as the DPRK and Albania. Disability rights were a core element of the Joint Communiqué on Human Rights, launched in August with future hosts of the games (Russia, Brazil and Republic of Korea).
Leading up to the games, and working with individuals, NGOs, charities and schools, we sought to raise the profile of disability rights internationally and position sport as something that can foster inclusion and promote equality. In Jerusalem, we arranged for the Palestinian Paralympic team based in Gaza to visit the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount, one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. The visit was described by their coach as “a big moment … the British Consulate has made our dream come true”. In the countdown to the Paralympic Games, our messages on disability rights reached a global audience of over 300 million.
We are working with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the organisers of future Paralympic Games to support the continued promotion of the Paralympic spirit and values.
We believe that the success of the Paralympics will have helped to change perceptions about disability in the UK and hope that they will have had a similar effect internationally, helping others to realise the ambitions of the UN Convention. To underpin this, we have been supporting the work of International Inspiration, London 2012’s international sports legacy programme, delivered by a unique partnership of organisations including the British Council, UNICEF and UK Sport Foundation. International Inspiration works in partnership with the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and is supported by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). It seeks to enrich the lives of 12 million children in 20 countries through high-quality and inclusive physical education, sport and play.
Last August, thanks to International Inspiration, three young people from Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago and the UK took part in the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay as a testament to the participation of children with disabilities in physical education and sport. One of the torchbearers was Anthony, aged 14, born with right primary focal femoral dysplasia, which resulted in his right leg being much shorter than his left. With support from International Inspiration, Anthony helped to organise a Paralympic School Day during which young people with and without disabilities played a variety of sports, including sitting volleyball and blind football.
In Croatia we funded a visit by the Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing of Nova Gradiška to Zagreb to meet members of the Croatian government and the British Embassy for discussions on how to approach the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens. The NGO gained high-level access to the Croatian government, meeting both the former Croatian Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor, and the President of Croatia.
Egypt began its participation in International Inspiration in 2012, and the Egyptian Paralympic Committee visited the UK in January 2013. The committee’s aim is to strengthen the inclusion of disabled young Egyptian people in sport and to produce a set of resources for teachers, community coaches and local organisers for the inclusion of disabled young people.