Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance’s round up of inaugural Global Disability Summit

Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance’s round up of inaugural Global Disability Summit

25 July 2018

On 23 and 24 July 2018 the UK government hosted it’s first ever Global Disability Summit and accompanying Civil Society Forum with the International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya.

The summit took place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London and brought together more than 800 delegates from governments, donors, private sector organisations, charities and organisations of persons with disabilities.

Global Disability Summit & Forum

The Global Disability Summit raised global attention and focus on a long-neglected area, mobilised new global and national commitments on disability and showcased good practice, innovation and evidence from across the world.

Globally, an estimated one billion people have a disability, of which 800 million live in developing countries. In these countries, disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty and people often face significant barriers that prevent them from participating fully in society.

The Global Disability Summit was a world-first and a landmark celebration of the achievements and rights of people with disabilities.

“By working in partnership, we can achieve lasting change for people with disabilities in the world’s poorest countries, and build a healthier, fairer and more prosperous future for all.”

Penny Mourdant, Secretary of State for International Development (UK)

Read Penny Mourdant’s opening and closing speeches at the Summit online.

Dementia & Disability

Dementia is an often ‘unseen’ disability affecting 50 million people globally and a major cause of disability and dependence among older adults. The majority live in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Dementia currently costs the global economy around $1 trillion annually. With rapidly ageing populations across LMICs, dementia will add significant financial strain to vulnerable countries’ budgets unless it is addressed as an urgent development issue. People living with dementia and their families frequently face stigma and discrimination, and in some parts of the world can even face violence.

While everyone experiences dementia differently, for many the condition causes increasingly severe cognitive and physical disabilities that can result in the loss of ability to carry out every day activities. This is compounded by physical and societal barriers which can be further disabling. The WHO recognises that dementia accounts for 11.9% of the years lived with disability due to a non-communicable disease. People with learning disabilities, particularly those with Down’s syndrome, are also at increased risk of developing dementia.

Dementia should not just be seen as a health condition, but through the lens of rights, autonomy and inclusion. It is clear we need to recognise the symptoms of dementia as acquired and progressive disabilities. People living with dementia must be afforded the same support and rights as anyone else living with disability.

Find out more about dementia: disability, rights and inclusion here.

Summit Marketplace Stall

Josephine Anenih, former Women’s Minister of Nigeria and supporter of Dementia Friends Nigeria (centre) at the Summit with GADAA staff.

GADAA co-hosted the Mental Health & Psychosocial Disability Marketplace Stall. The Stall showcased a range of innovations, products and programmes to tackle stigma and discrimination of ‘unseen’ disabilities around the world. So-called ‘unseen’ disabilities such as dementia currently receive little attention in mainstream disability conversation. Holding a marketplace event dedicated to mental health and psychosocial disability made sure that the Global Disability Summit did not overlook people living with dementia round the world so that No One is Left Behind.

With our campaign colleague, Josephine Anenih (former Women’s Minister of Nigeria and supporter of Dementia Friends Nigeria, whose brother is living with dementia) alongside Nigel Hullah and Howard Gordon who live with dementia, we helped raised the profile of people with dementia in the disability sector and shared effective ways to challenge stigma globally.

Dementia highlighted at Summit

Dementia’s intersection with disability featured throughout the Forum and Summit, reaching an influential audience. Nigel Hullah, a representative of the 3 Nations Dementia Working Group (UK), asked a poignant question on cognitive disabilities, such as dementia,  compared to other disabilities during the spotlight session ‘Leave No One Behind’. This spotlight session, coordinated by HelpAge (a GADAA  member organisation) explored the challenges faced by people with disabilities when compounded by discrimination based on other intersecting identities. It highlighted the diverse experience of disability across the life course.

Nigel, supported by Dementia Alliance International, Alzheimer’s Society (UK) and GADAA made sure the challenges faced by those living with dementia were heard loud and clear.

“Society values people with intact cognition above others. Dementia is used to justify denying the human rights of those with the condition. How do we ensure all people irrespective of their disability enjoy fulfillment and protection of their Human Rights globally?”

Nigel Hullah, 3 Nations Dementia Working Group (UK)

Next Steps with GADAA

To ensure that the 50 million people living with dementia worldwide receive the support they need to live well with the disability, we all have a part to play.

We work with our Steering Committee member Dementia Alliance International (DAI) to advocate that dementia is a pressing and often overlooked disability and development issue. DAI leads the call for all governments to progress national policies to advance the awareness, prevention and diagnosis, treatment, research and care for those affected by dementia.

International civil society organisations also have a major role to play in global action on dementia and can join the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance to work with other iNGOs on this urgent cause.

Without action we risk leaving some of the most underserved and vulnerable people with disabilities behind.

The time is now for governments and international civil society actors around the world to get behind this global challenge and unite for a world where no one is left behind because of their dementia.

To mark the Global Disability Summit, take action to get it right for everyone affected by dementia around the world:

  • Read the commitments from GADAA, DAI and others on making inclusive development a reality on DFID’s website.
  • Join GADAA and help keep dementia a priority in the disability inclusive development agenda.