The global forum to further the empowerment and inclusion of disabled people.

Congress patrons

The 23rd RI World Congress enjoyed the patronage of a wide range of leading figures known for their commitment to promoting inclusion. These included:

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal – Royal Patron
Baroness Valerie Amos
Hans-Horst Konkolewsky
Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC
Lord Holmes of Richmond
Baroness Masham of Ilton
Terry Riley OBE
Sir Philip Craven
Dame Anne Begg
Lord Filkin CBE
Lord Low of Dalston
Baroness Thomas of Winchester
Lord Leitch
Baroness Greengross
Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson
Maryanne Diamond
Pamela Relph
Aaron Phipps
Colin Allen
The Rt Hon Tom Clarke CBE, JP, KSG
Chris McCoy MBE


Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal – Royal Patron

The Princess Royal is the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The Princess Royal is known for her charitable work, being the patron of over 200 organisations, and she carries out about 500 royal engagements and public appearances per year. She is also known for equestrian talents; she won two silver medals (1975) and one gold medal (1971) at the European Eventing Championships, and is the first member of the British Royal Family to compete in the Olympic Games.

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Baroness Valerie Amos

“Disability is often seen as a medical issue but it is actually about human rights. I hope this Congress will provide disabled people with the opportunity to build on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Valerie joined as Director of SOAS, University of London in September 2015. From 2010, she served as Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the UN. She served in a number of roles in the public sector including in local government and as Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Valerie was an adviser to the Mandela Government on leadership, change, management and strategy issues between 1994 and 1998. She was appointed a Labour Life Peer in 1997 and became a member of the Government in 1998. She was a Foreign Office Minister, Secretary of State for International Development, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. She also served as UK High Commissioner to Australia before joining the UN.

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103rd session of the International Labour Conference

Hans-Horst Konkolewsky

Mr Konkolewsky was elected Secretary General of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) in 2005. In this function, Mr Konkolewsky has developed the innovative concept of dynamic social security which is proactive and preventive and supports sustainable social and economic development. Under his leadership, the ISSA has recently launched a Centre for Excellence, which aims to strengthen governance, performance and service quality in key areas of social security administration, including notably the prevention of occupational risks, workplace health promotion, return to work and the promotion of sustainable employability.

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SGPS2Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC

“We can only truly work together if accessibility, empowerment and inclusiveness enable all to participate and contribute, with everyone having the opportunity to fulfil their rich potential.”

Patricia Scotland QC took office as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations on 1st April 2016. In a career of firsts for women, she is the first woman to hold the post of Secretary-General.

Born in Dominica to a Dominican mother and an Antiguan father, she moved to the UK at an early age and was brought up in a large, close-knit Caribbean family where she was taught the importance of hard work, education, pride in her heritage and the obligation to give back to the region of her birth and to the society in which she was raised. This ethic has guided her throughout her dynamic career in law, public service and politics.

Patricia Scotland is a lawyer by profession. She became the first black and youngest woman ever to be appointed Queen’s Counsel. She was the first black woman to be appointed Deputy High Court Judge, Recorder, Master of Middle Temple, and the only woman since the post was created in 1315 to be Attorney General for England and Wales. As a UK government minister, she undertook major reform of the criminal justice system, including the introduction of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act, and during her term of office from 2003-7 crime in England and Wales was reduced to its lowest level since 1981. During this period she chaired the Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic Violence, which collectively worked together to reduce domestic violence by 64% and led to £7.5bn reduction in the economic cost of domestic violence in England and Wales.

In 2011 Patricia Scotland returned to private practice at the Bar through which she continued to share her expertise on constitutional, civil and criminal justice reform, human rights, public and family law, gender equality, diversity and corporate social responsibility. Patricia Scotland has done pro bono projects in a number of legal and social areas and has been instrumental in the setting up of several foundations and non-governmental organisations aimed at advancing human rights, the welfare of young people and the protection of girls and women from violence.  

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Lord Holmes of RichmondLord Holmes of Richmond

“This World Congress is essential to ensure that the voice of disabled people is heard to help in the design, development and delivery of services to promote inclusion.”

Chris is Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer with a tally of 9 golds, 5 silvers and 1 bronze. He was also LOCOG’s Director of Paralympic Integration, responsible for the organisation of the 2012 Paralympic Games. A lifelong campaigner for equality and inclusion, Chris was appointed to the House of Lords in 2013 as the Lord Holmes of Richmond. Chris currently divides his time between parliamentary work, a role as non-executive director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and various speaking, consultancy and charitable commitments.

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Baroness Masham of iltonBaroness Masham of Ilton

“Disability is a global challenge that affects people as individuals. Bringing together 1,000 experts, many of whom will be disabled people like me, provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share initiatives and best practice from around the globe. Turning ideas into actions that promote inclusion is critical to improving the life chances of future generations of disabled people. Learning from each other is vital.”

Baroness Masham of Ilton (1935-04-14)is a member of the House of Lords. She is a senior female life peer. She became disabled in a riding accident in 1958, and subsequently became a champion for causes related to disability. She was created a life peer in 1970. She takes a particular interest in issues surrounding disability, health and penal reform. She continues to run the Masham Riding Centre. In 2011 she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal College of Nursing. She founded the Spinal Injuries Association, the first user led organisation of disabled people in the UK. She competed in several Paralympic Games, winning medals for table tennis in 1960, 1964, and 1968.

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Terry_pic_jpegTerry Riley OBE

“It is great having deaf people involved in the development and delivery of this World Congress.”

Terry gained a wealth of experience in deaf television, working up from the bottom of the ladder as a researcher at See Hear to become its first Deaf Editor in 2000. He left the BBC in 2008 and became the first British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT) CEO that same year. Terry was instrumental in setting up the European Deaf TV & Video network, which now has over 20 countries. As the CEO of BSLBT, which has in 3 short years commissioned over 100 programmes, with a wide remit from children’s to drama, sports to documentaries and magazine formats to science and a monthly current affairs. Many have been pick of the day to watch, which is some achievement, as they are not considered mainstream television programmes.

Terry has been an advocate for British Sign Language for over 40 years and instrumental in bringing it to mainstream society. Through dedication and strong commitment to ensuring the community at large is rightly recognised and that the language and culture of the deaf community is fully accepted, Terry has always strived and has been fully committed to leaving a legacy behind. He was awarded the OBE for services to broadcasting and also to the deaf community.

Terry is currently the Chair of the British Deaf Association and also a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf .

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Sir Philip CravenSir Philip Craven

“London 2012 set out to be the most inclusive games ever. I hope that the lessons learnt at the RI World Congress enable this ambition to be applied to all other areas of the lives of disabled people.”

Philip has been President, of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) since 2001. In addition, he is a:

  • Member, International Olympic Committee (IOC) (2003-present)
  • Member, Executive Board, British Olympic Association (2003- present)
  • Board Member, London 2012 Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (2005-present)
  • Administration Council Member, International Committee for Fair Play (2003-)
  • Foundation Board Member, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) (2002-)
  • Board Member, Olympic Truce Foundation (2002-present)
  • Member, IOC Commission for Culture and Olympic Education (2005- present), His Sporting Achievements include
  • Five time Paralympian in Wheelchair Basketball (1972-1988) and Swimming (1972)
  • International Achievements in Wheelchair Basketball: – Gold medal – World Championship/Gold Cup (1973) – Bronze medal – World Championship/Gold Cup (1975) – Gold medal – European Championship (1971 and 1974)

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Dame Anne BeggDame Anne Begg

“Poverty and disability are inextricably linked. This Global Congress provides the opportunity to promote inclusion and advise policymakers on how to break this link once and for all.”

Begg was educated at the University of Aberdeen where she earned an MA in History and Politics. From Aberdeen College of Education (merged with the Dundee College of Education in 1987 to become the Northern College of Education then became the Faculty of Education of the University of Aberdeen in December 2001), she gained a Secondary Teaching Certificate in 1978.

Begg entered Parliament representing Aberdeen South after the Labour landslide in the 1997 general election.

Begg has been a wheelchair user since 1984 as she lives with the degenerative Gaucher’s disease. She was the second full-time user of a wheelchair elected to the House of Commons, after Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh who was first elected in 1868 and sat until 1880. She lost her seat in 2015.

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Filkin - photoLord Filkin CBE

“I am pleased that this Global Congress is placing a strong emphasis on the issue of ageing and disability.”

Geoffrey Filkin’s career has spanned public service improvement as a Chief Executive, policy maker, Government Minister and member of the House Lords, working in all sectors. He founded and chaired several charities and think-tanks and is now the founder Chair of the Centre for Ageing Better, a What Works Centre supported with substantial endowment funding by the Big Lottery.

He was a senior manager in housing associations and local government and then led the Association of District Councils, helped promote the foundation of the LGA and created Best Value, the policy for sourcing in local government. In 1997 he was appointed CBE. In 2000 he led the Prime Minister’s Review of local government and subsequently was a government Minister for four years.

He founded the Public Services Research Group which published Public Matters, a critical review of Labour’s public service reforms and in 2008 he founded and chaired the charity, 2020 Public Services Trust.He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Purchasing and Supply.

In the Lords he chaired the Committee on Statutory Instruments from 2005-10 and proposed and then chaired the Lords Select Committee on Public Services and Demographic Change and its report, Ready for Ageing? was published in March 2013. He founded the Parliament Choir in 2000

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Lord Low of DalstonLord Low of Dalston

“Having attended RI Global Conferences in the past I know what an enriching experience it will be for everyone who attends.”

Lord Low of Dalston is a British politician, law scholar and member of the House of Lords. Low was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2000 New Year Honours for services to the RNIB and disabled peoples’ rights. On 13 June 2006, he was created a life peer as Lord Low of Dalston, of Dalston in the London Borough of Hackney and he sits as a crossbencher.

Low was born in Edinburgh and has been blind since the age of three. He was educated at what is now New College Worcester, as well as at Oxford University and at Cambridge University (Diploma in Criminology). Low was a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Leeds from 1968 until 1984 and later held a research post at City University London until 2000. He is Vice-Chairman of the RNIB. He has also been President of the European Blind Union (2003-2011).

He has been President of ICEVI since 2010.(International Council for the Education of people with Visual Impairment).

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Baroness Thomas of WinchesterBaroness Thomas of Winchester

“I am particularly interested in the Question Time session including the UN, WHO, ILO, IDA and other international organisations.”

Baroness Thomas was the administrator of the Winchester Diocesan Board of Finance 1964-66, fundraiser Winchester Cathedral 1966-67, administrator Pilgrims’ School Winchester 1967-72, administrator Christ Church Cathedral School Oxford 1972-74, Office of Rt Hon Jeremy Thorpe MP 1975-76, head Lib Dem Whips office House of Lords 1977-2006; chm Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, Member Procedure Committee; chair Keynes Forum (formerly Lib Summer School) 2001-, President Winchester Lib Dems, vice-president Lloyd George Society; patron Winchester Churches Night shelter, patron Avonbrook Projects Abroad, Trustee Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, patron Thrive. Baroness Thomas has direct personal experience of disability. Thomas was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1985 Birthday Honours.

On 26 May 2006, she was created a life peer with the title Baroness Thomas of Winchester, of Winchester in the County of Hampshire.

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Lord LeitchLord Leitch

“Our business is about improving the life chances of disabled and older people so this World Congress really matters.”

Lord Leitch joined the Board of BUPA in May 2005 and appointed Chairman in November 2006. Lord Leitch is currently Chairman of Intrinsic Financial Services, Chairman of FNZ (UK), Non-Executive Director of Old Mutual Wealth, and member of the House of Lords.

Previously Deputy Chairman of Lloyds Banking Group plc, Chairman of Scottish Widows plc, Senior Independent Director at United Business Media plc, Chairman and Chief Executive Zurich Financial Services UK, Ireland, South Africa and Asia Pacific, and Chairman of the Association of British Insurers. Lord Leitch has a deep and broad knowledge of insurance and financial services gained over 45 years as a senior executive in a number of major international businesses. Leitch is the son of a Scottish coal miner and endured a childhood in near poverty following the Second World War. He was left paralysed down one side of his body during his 30s due to a lesion on his brain.

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Baroness GreengrossBaroness Greengross

“I wish to Congress well particularly its focus on the needs of older disabled people.”

Sally Greengross, Baroness Greengross, OBE is a British politician. Awarded an OBE in the 1993 New Year’s Honours, Sally Greengross was raised to the peerage as Baroness Greengross, of Notting Hill in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the year 2000.

She was Director General of Age Concern England from 1987 until 2000; also until 2000, she was joint Chair of the Age Concern Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London, and Secretary General of Eurolink Age.

Her appointments include that of Chair of the Advisory Groups for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA); and Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre – UK, President of the Pensions Policy Institute and Honorary Vice President of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health.

She has been an independent crossbench member of the House of Lords since 2000.

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Baroness Tanni Grey ThompsonBaroness Tanni Grey Thompson

“I hope that your World Congress is as successful as the Paralympics were in 2012.”

Baroness Grey-Thompson is a paralympian, crossbench peer in the House of Lords, motivational speaker, broadcaster and mother.

One of Britain’s greatest Paralympic athletes, Tanni, amassed a remarkable medal haul over 16 years and five Paralympic Games of 11 gold, 4 silver and a bronze.

She is a Board Member of the London Marathon, the Sportsaid Foundation, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and Join In. In addition to this she is also a Board Member of several organisations including Transport for London, the London Legacy Development Corporation and the London 2017 Organising Committee.

In 2005 she became ‘Dame’ Tanni Grey-Thompson for her services to sport. In March 2010, Tanni was created a life peer and was conferred as Baroness Grey-Thompson, of Eaglescliffe in the County of Durham.

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Maryanne DiamondMaryanne Diamond

Maryanne Diamond is the Chair of the International Disability Alliance. She is responsible for guiding/representing IDA advocacy towards the UN System, UN agencies, World Bank, and other international human rights and development organizations. In particular, Maryanne is engaged in promoting the disability inclusive development in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Maryanne ensures that IDA promotes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during the intergovernmental negotiations as well as in the financing for development process. Maryanne’s main focus is to ensure that the UN upholds the universal principle of the disability movement: “nothing about us without us” by implementing standards on full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities.

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Image courtesy of Derek Pelling

Pamela Relph

“I am delighted to be attending the RI World Congress this year. Sport is a great platform to showcase the incredible capabilities of people with disabilities, with events like the Paralympic Games breaking down barriers and changing perceptions of disability on a global scale. I am excited about using my experiences competing at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic games to help create a more inclusive and accessible world for all.”

Pamela Relph MBE is a member of the Great Britain Paralympic Rowing Team.

Pam was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis at a young age. The degeneration in her joints, namely her wrist meant that the bones fused together whilst Pam was growing and as a result Pam has very limited function and strength in her hand and wrist.

Not to be deterred, at age 16 Pam embarked on an officer training scheme within the British Army. Pam was sponsored by the Royal Engineers, a regiment within the Army but unfortunately after four years of education and military training on the scheme, Pam’s career was prematurely cut short.

In 2011 after being medically discharged from the Army, Pam’s older sister Monica, an international GB Rower herself, encouraged Pam to enquire into classification for Paralympic rowing. It was from there that Pam began her career as a full time athlete.

Within 10 months of taking her first rowing stroke, Pam was crowned World Champion in the Legs, Trunk and Arms Mixed Coxed 4 (LTA4+) classification in 2011. Pam, along with her crew James Roe, David Smith, Naomi Riches and cox Lily Van Den Broecke went from strength to strength and fought their way against tough opposition to win Gold at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Being the only remaining member of the victorious London crew, Pam won consecutive world championship titles in 2013, 2014, 2015 and is the current World Record holder. Pam is training hard on the Road to Rio aiming to defend her title and win more gold for Great Britain.

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Aaron Phipps

“The RI World Congress is an important platform for changing perceptions and breaking down barriers. I’m delighted to be taking part.”

Aaron Phipps is a Wheelchair Rugby player and product specialist for ROMA sports wheelchairs. He was top scorer for Team GB in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. His passion to change perceptions of disability led to his successful unaided ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in June this year, which forms the basis of his presentation at the Congress. Aaron is an athlete mentor on the sky sports living for sport programme and a chancellor of the children’s university in Southampton.

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Colin AllenColin Allen

Colin Allen is responsible for guiding and representing the International Disability Alliance‘s engagement with the UN System and other international human rights and international development organizations. Mr. Allen is closely engaged with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for persons with disabilities worldwide: he is leading IDA’s strategic planning to ensure awareness raising, capacity building, and participation of persons with disabilities in the preparatory processes towards national reviews.

Mr. Allen’s priority across this national and regional engagement is to enable coherence with the global level review at the HLPF so that no one is left behind, including all persons with disabilities. Mr Allen’s priority is to ensure that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is used as a universal guide to the implementation of the SDGs.

Under Mr. Allen’s leadership, IDA’s mission is to ensure that the UN upholds the essential, unifying principle of the disability movement: ‘nothing about us without us’. This includes implementing standards on full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities, notably ensuring accessibility of decision-making spaces and documentation, meaningful participation in follow-up and review processes, and universal design throughout programme implementation.

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The Rt Hon Tom Clarke CBE, JP, KSG

The Rt Hon Tom Clarke, CBE, JP, KSG (born 10 January 1941) is a British Labour Party politician who was Member of Parliament (MP) from 1982 until 2015, representing Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill from 2005 until May 2015.

Tom served as a councillor on the Coatbridge Town Council from 1964 and became a Justice of the Peace in 1972. By profession Tom was Assistant Director of the Scottish Film Council before going to Parliament and was also a Former Provost of Monklands for three consecutive terms from 1974 until 1982. He was a former President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities for which service he was awarded a CBE.

Tom was selected to contest the 1982 Coatbridge and Airdrie by-election, which he won on 24 June 1982 with a majority of 10,090. He became known quite quickly in Parliament for his work on issues surrounding disabled people and in 1986 he sponsored the ‘Disabled Persons (Services, Representation and Consultation) Act’. He was twice voted Champion for Disabled People in the prestigious e-Politix Charity Awards. Tom has continued his work on disability issues and is currently the Chairman of the Disability Times Trust.

After the 1987 general election, Neil Kinnock appointed Tom as Shadow Minister for Personal Social Services in which role he served until 1992. Tom then became a member of the Shadow Cabinet of John Smith as Shadow Scottish Secretary. He then became the Shadow Minister for Overseas Development in 1993. Tom left the Shadow Cabinet in 1994 and returned in 1995 to serve as Shadow Minister for Disabled People until 1997 under the leadership of Tony Blair.

Following the 1997 general election Tom joined the Privy Council and served as a Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with responsibility for Film and Tourism. He served as the Treasurer of the All Party Group on Carers from 2005 until 2010 and was Chair of the All Party Group on Learning Disabilities.

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Chris McCoy MBE

Recently awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for her contribution to social equality, Chris Heads up Equality & Diversity and Accessible Tourism for VisitScotland; implementing a business focused diversity strategy enabling VS to fulfill its corporate business objective of enhancing the visitor experience. For the last 5 years Chris has managed the very successful Accessible Tourism Programme for VisitScotland.

Prior to her career in VisitScotland Chris worked in the Civil Service & the private sector for 30 years, and has extensive expertise in the field of diversity and equality. Chris also Heads up the Mediation Partnership Team which is a collaboration of public bodies in Scotland working together to deal with conflict in the workplace. The team has successfully managed over 40 cases in the last 3 years and Chris has delivered training in conflict management to management teams in the Scottish Government, and other public bodies.

Chris’s priority is to create a flexible & inclusive tourism product for VisitScotland, working in partnership with disabled people, the tourist industry, and establishing Scotland as a leader in inclusive tourism.

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