Inaccessibility at COP26

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations Conference on Climate change. CCOP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties.’ This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. With the UK as President, COP26 takes place in Glasgow. World leaders will arrive in Scotland, alongside tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens for twelve days of talks.

However, Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett found that the main venue of the conference to be completely inaccessible for wheelchair users. A member of Bennett's delegation, Karine Elharrar was unable to access the main venue for the event on Monday. As a reaction to this Bennett threatened to withdraw his attendance until this issue was resolved. Ms Elharrar reportedly told Israel's Channel 12 that she could not get onto the grounds of the conference because the only options were to either walk or take a shuttle that was not suitable for a wheelchair. As a result she waited outside the venue in Glasgow for two hours, and was eventually forced to return to her hotel in the Scottish capital Edinburgh 80km (50 miles) away.

Elharrar tweeted that it was "sad" the UN "does not provide accessibility to its events". This is especially poignant given the principles the United Nations hold at the centre of the convention. These include 'non- discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, equality of opportunity and accessibility.'

An official in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's delegation explained they had formally complained to organisers. In response to this the UK's Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said the incident was "deeply regrettable" and the government had apologised to Ms Elharrar - who has muscular dystrophy.

However, within Eustice's response he also appeared to blame the Israeli delegation, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What would normally happen in this situation is that Israel would have communicated that they had that particular need for their minister. There was obviously something that went wrong in this instance and they weren't aware of that so they hadn't made the right provisions at that particular entrance she was coming too." Further adding that at most of the other entrances there are wheelchair accessible.

Eustice has faced some criticism for the remarks, with Lib Dem peer Lady Ludford tweeting: "Not the most gracious of responses for the COP26 host to blame the guest." However, as a wheelchair user myself, in my experience blame for being unable to access a venue is often placed on the disabled person.

Despite this after Israel's Prime Minister Mr Bennett had told UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the incident, Mr Johnson invited Ms Elharrar to join a meeting between the two prime ministers on Tuesday. This is a welcome response from the UK Prime Minsiter, demonstrating he cares for disability rights within his country.

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