International Disability Alliance and The Valuable 500 share their views on why working together will achieve much, much more
At the heart of WeThe15’s desire to advance the rights of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities is the ground-breaking coalition of international organisations working together, spanning the worlds of sport, human rights, policy, business, arts, and entertainment. Together the 20+ organisations will work together with governments, businesses, and the public over the next decade to initiate change for the world’s largest marginalised group who make up 15% of the global population.
WeThe15 spoke with the International Disability Alliance’s Executive Director Vladimir Cuk and The Valuable 500’s Founder Caroline Casey to find out why collaboration is so important in the ongoing battle for inclusivity.
What does your organisation do?
Vladimir: The International Disability Alliance is the organisation of persons with disabilities. We have eight global and six regional organisations, through which we bring together the voices of 1,110 national organisations from 182 countries. We work to bring this collective voice of one billion people with disabilities to different stakeholders – primarily in New York and Geneva. We speak with UN member states, governments, and international development stakeholders including donors and foundations.
We also work on the capacity building of organisations of persons with disabilities, primarily from the global south. We invest in the capacities of organisations and people to advocate for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Sustainable Development Goals. We hold governments accountable through the process of the CCRPD Committee. We work with humanitarian actors as well, to make sure that action coming from various stakeholders is inclusive. And we work with the UN Security Council, too.
Caroline: The Valuable 500 is the biggest business movement for disability inclusion in the world. It is a global CEO collective that is working together to drive system change across six areas in business, so that we can equally include people with disabilities and their families. We are transforming disability inclusion through the power of business, leadership, and opportunity.
Why is it important for disability organisations to work in partnership?
Vladimir: This is one of the most important questions we can ask in the last 20 years. It speaks to several points. Firstly, I think the message is still weak because discrimination is too strong. Discrimination towards people with disabilities is overwhelming. There is a need to connect to make the message stronger in the mainstream. Secondly, the nature of our work is about inclusivity and celebrating diversity. If that’s the case, we cannot do that without ourselves establishing partnerships. Finally, the funding that is available for disability work is very scarce. Establishing partnerships is a way to challenge this and explain to donors and foundations how things can be done.
Caroline: I have always said that the idea of The Valuable 500 is to be the Paralympics of business. I wanted to have the scale, enormity, heart, and impact of the Paralympics. Traditionally, the disability community has not worked in symphony. There has only been a finite amount of resource and visibility, and organisations feared losing their power by working in collaboration. But in coming together, we get more. The issue of disability has become more transcendent in our society. We are talking more. It is more visible. And, in turn, the sense of fear about losing power is falling away. It is so important that as disability groups we back each other’s agendas. Not doing so is divisive and it does not serve our community. The lack of collaboration in the past has been a barrier to acceleration.
Is now, more than ever, the right time to champion for inclusion?
Vladimir: We have come together now, and that is what is most important. People believe that the world will be more attentive to the rights of persons with disabilities because of COVID. I believe that people will be more attentive to their personal needs, which will be absolutely in opposition to those that are marginalised. If our message is to build on the COVID experience, we are going to fail miserably. Our message is simply that we are here, and we must include people with disabilities.
Caroline: It is time for disability to show up in all of humanity’s demographics, whether it is the disabled woman, talking about disability and gender, disability and LGBTQ, disability and race, or disability and socio-economic backgrounds. Disability is the one club that will touch nearly all of us at some point in our life. It is in every single part of our lived experience. How has it taken so long for us to see that? Disability is a universal human experience. What has happened now is that the curtain has been drawn back. Inclusion means all for everyone, and everyone for all. If it is not that, then it is nothing at all. It is a delusion to believe we can truly speak to inclusion without discussing disability and the fact there are barriers in our society that do not enable us to reach our potential. We can overcomplicate this, but it is that simple.
WeThe15 aspires to be the biggest ever human rights movement to represent the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities.
Spearheaded by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and International Disability Alliance, WeThe15 brings together 20+ international organisations behind a common goal: to end discrimination towards persons with disabilities and act as a global movement publicly campaigning for disability visibility, accessibility, and inclusion.
The organisations involved are: International Paralympic Committee, International Disability Alliance, UN Human Rights, the World Health Organization, UNESCO, the World Bank, Special Olympics, Invictus Games Foundation, The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, the UN SDG Action Campaign, the European Commission, The Valuable 500, Global Citizen, Global Disability Innovation Hub, UN Alliance of Civilisations, International Disability and Development Consortium, C-Talent, ATscale – the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, Zero Project, and the Global Alliance of Assistive Technology Organisations.