Jahanara Begum, 35, photographed outside her home in Narsingdi, Bangladesh. Jahanara has been blind since birth.

Jahanara sat at a table with a man and a woman. She is reading from a braille book.

Photo © Sightsavers/Tommy Trenchard

Global Disability Summit: 10 things you need to know

The second Global Disability Summit is now over, and the next summit will be hosted by the governments of Germany and Jordan, alongside the International Disability Alliance, in 2025. Here are 10 things you need to know about the Global Disability Summit (GDS) and why it matters.

1. It’s a vital opportunity to take action for disability rights  

The GDS highlights the need for progress on inclusive global development for people with disabilities living in low and middle income countries. Thousands of you – 30,143 in fact! signed our petition calling for summit attendees to make their commitments count.

2. Its purpose is to make progress towards a more disability-inclusive world 

The GDS aims to raise global attention and focus on inclusive development, strengthen engagement between organisations of people with disabilities and governments, lead to targeted, concrete commitments on disability inclusion and showcase effective examples of disability-inclusive development from around the world. Find out more about the summit

3. The second summit happened in Oslo, Norway in February 2022

Hosted by the government of Norway in partnership with the government of Ghana and the International Disability Alliance, the second GDS was held on 16 and 17 February 2022 as a mostly-virtual event.

4. So far there have only been two Global Disability Summits 

The first Global Disability Summit (held in 2018) was a pivotal moment for disability rights around the world. Hundreds of commitments to disability-inclusive development were made, but many lacked sufficient financing, were too vague, or failed to ensure the rights of specific groups (for example, women and girls) were taken into account. The second summit aimed to address these failings to avoid repeating them.  

5. The GDS is attended by governments and global organisations 

171 national governments, multilateral agencies, donors, foundations, private sector and civil society organisations attended the 2018 summit – and the 2022 summit was even bigger. The GDS offers a huge opportunity to reach global decision-makers and urge them to do more. 

6. It aims to raise awareness and understanding of disability and development 

Disability inclusion remains a neglected area of global development. Just 6% of official development assistance is disability inclusive, and although many governments and global organisations have put disability policies and strategies in place, they’re often not properly resourced or put into practice. 

7. The GDS can’t be meaningful unless people with disabilities are heard 

Participation of and consultation with people with disabilities and their representative organisations is crucial for the GDS to be effective and result in meaningful change. Governments need to listen to what people with disabilities in their countries are telling them, and take it into account when making development decisions.

8. The 2022 summit happened against a backdrop of increased inequality 

Between the first and second Global Disability Summits, the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed a human development crisis that has yet to completely unfold or be understood. What we do know is that the effects of the crisis are unequally distributed, and people who have already been marginalised on the grounds of disability or gender have been disproportionately affected. This makes the need for action all the more urgent, so that the progress made in recent years isn’t undone.

9. It can shape the future – for good or ill 

If governments and global organisations use the opportunity of the summit to make ambitious commitments, backed up by proper financing, it could be a gamechanger for progress on disability rights. Listen to Equal World campaign manager Ross McMullan talking more about the summit on the RNIB Conversations podcast:

10. You have a part to play in its success

Equal World campaign supporters have taken action for change at the first and second Global Disability Summits. At the first summit we called for the attendees to ‘make it count’ and at the second summit we gathered more than 30,000 petition signatures for our call to governments and global organisations to attend and make stronger commitments than in 2018. We’ll continue to campaign for a more equal world at the next summit, and the next – and your support will be as crucial as ever in holding global decision-makers to account. In the meantime, see the other ways you can be involved in the campaign on our take action page.

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