“Together we can ensure that every person… can fully participate in every aspect of life – social, economic, cultural and political,” said Secretary-General António Guterres, adding that “we can and will build our common future. “
He praised the progress driven by the disability convention as “broad, rapid and tangible”.
“With 185 ratifications since its adoption in 2006, the treaty has crystallized the international community’s commitment to achieving an inclusive, accessible and sustainable world for all.”
Mr. Guterres noted that 92 percent of state parties have passed national disability laws, more than 60 percent have taken measures to prohibit discrimination in the labor market, nearly 90 percent have passed laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities to education , and the percentage of countries with school materials that support the inclusion of learners with disabilities has more than doubled.
Unfortunately, the UN chief said progress has been negated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed existing inequalities and gave rise to new threats.
“Even before the pandemic, persons with disabilities were less likely to access education, health care and livelihoods…[and] when COVID-19 hit communities, people with disabilities were among the hardest hit,” he said.
This also applies in armed conflict, the secretary-general said, noting that “persons with disabilities are often unable to flee the violence and do not receive adequate humanitarian aid†
He recalled that the Convention and Resolution 2475 called on Member States to ensure equal protection for persons with disabilities and to provide safe, timely and unfettered access to humanitarian aid, and urged states to “comply with those obligations” .
Steep climb ahead
Fifteen years since the Convention’s adoption, Mr Guterres highlighted “three critical avenues” for moving forward, starting by harnessing technology to enhance inclusion.
†Embracing the promise of technology means closing the digital divide; increasing accessibility and inclusiveness; and better protection of people from its dangers“, he said.
Second is to promote economic empowerment and entrepreneurship to promote the participation of persons with disabilities in the labor market on equal terms.
Finally, he called for progress on climate action.
†People with disabilities are two to four times more likely to die during hurricanes, tsunamis and other natural disasters,” he pointed out.
‘Cornerstone’ of collaboration
On all three priorities, the UN chief identified the need for broader cooperation between governments, international organisations, civil society and the private sector.
“But the cornerstone … must be the active participation of persons with disabilities in their full diversity, and their full inclusion in all decision-making processes,” said Mr Guterres.
†We need the leadership of people with disabilities, especially women, and their representative organizations†
He said action should be guided by the “clear and vital appeal” from persons with disabilities themselves – “Nothing about us, without us”.
Start the conversation
Committed to lead by example, he recalled that the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy is in its third year of implementation and provides a “concrete framework” to promote inclusion in a comprehensive manner.
†From headquarters to the field,we closely examine how we have addressed the inclusion and accessibility of people with disabilities, from our programs to our internal operations‘ he said, confirming that ‘with the strategy as our roadmap, we are building the integration of disabled people into our humanitarian, peace and security work’.
He said the UN is working with governments to collect data on people with disabilities and support implementation of the convention. and achieving the 2030 development agenda.
And by improving physical and digital accessibility and establishing accessible work systems in UN offices, Mr. guterres “to become” an employer of your choice for persons with disabilities”.
Accelerate the pandemic: Shahid
General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid recalled through a video message that the conference’s theme was “Building Inclusive and Participatory Societies for People with Disabilities in the COVID Context and Beyond”.
He spoke at length about how persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, through “job losses, non-inclusive social protection systems and inadequate assistive technologies.
While advocating for incorporating “the views of the one billion people with disabilities” as we embark on a post-COVID agenda, Mr Shahid urged the international community to incorporate their views into the policy design and implementation.