Open Letter to Supporting Syria and the Region Conference

(Version española aqui)

Dear Leaders and Participants at Supporting Syria and the Region Conference:

As you gather today at the Supporting Syria conference in London to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Inclusion International calls on you to make sure no one is left behind. We urge you to ensure that the needs of people with intellectual disabilities and their families are not ignored.

People with intellectual disabilities and their families are disproportionately vulnerable in situations of humanitarian crisis. While comprehensive research in this area remains limited, the stories and experiences of members of Inclusion International from around the world tells us that public responses in times of crisis are at best inadequate and often ignore people with intellectual disabilities and their families entirely.

Inclusion International recently shared Kawthar’s story of being a refugee who is also a mom to a son with intellectual disabilities. She shared her experience and the message she and other refugee families supporting a family member with an intellectual disability hear: we cannot help you here. Kawthar and her son Wael risk being left behind if your discussions do not take deliberate and explicit steps to ensure the approaches you support and promote are not inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities and responsive to their unique needs.

According to the EU, 2 million children inside Syria cannot attend school and 700,000 Syrian refugee children are out of the education system. This is a human rights crisis. The solutions must based on inclusive educational approaches and a fundamental agreement that ALL students belong at school and that no one be left behind. The exclusion of children with disabilities would be a human rights catastrophe. Inclusive education works and contributes to better education for all children. Segregation cannot and will not achieve equality. Further, when resources are used to fund separate classes, schools or systems, these resources are drained from the regular system.

Not only can inclusive education provide better academic outcomes for all children, inclusive schools foster and promote social inclusion. Moreover, it helps build social cohesion and social capital that has lasting impact in the lives of individuals and in communities. Inclusive education contributes to building peaceful inclusive communities.

Today is an important day for building a hopeful future for Syrians. Inclusion International stands in solidarity with all those seeking to address the many human rights violations facing Syrians. We urge you to make sure that people with intellectual disabilities and their families have an equal place in that future.

Esteemed, conference leaders and participants, today is your opportunity to represent all Syrians impacted and affected by this horrible humanitarian disaster and chart a course for a better tomorrow. Promote inclusive refugee responses and services. Promote inclusive education. Speak up for those who have no voice with you today.

Klaus Lachwitz

President, Inclusion International