Disability advocates fight for inclusion at the UN
12 June 2019 at 5:13 pm
The United Nations’ new Disability Inclusion Strategy is a significant step towards making the UN more accessible to people with disability, advocates believe.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres told this week’s conference on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that inclusion was not only a fundamental human right, but central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
“When we fight to secure those rights, we move our world closer to upholding the core values and principles of the United Nations Charter,” Guterres said.
“When we remove policies or biases or obstacles to opportunity for persons with disabilities, the whole world benefits.”
Guterres on Tuesday launched a new UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, which aims to raise the standards of the UN’s performance on disability inclusion across the board.
The strategy includes an accountability framework to monitor progress and address challenges around disability inclusion, while encouraging more people with disability to work in, and be better supported by, the UN.
“I want the United Nations to be an employer of choice for persons with disabilities,” Guterres said.
“I want the United Nations to be fully accessible for one and all. We can no longer be a platform for change when persons with disabilities cannot access that platform to speak.”
Therese Sands, co-CEO of People with Disability Australia, told Pro Bono News the new strategy was a significant move towards making the UN more accessible to people with disability.
Sands said inclusion issues at the UN were highlighted at this week’s Conference of States Parties (COSP) meeting, where many people with disability using wheelchairs were not able to enter the UN building.
She said people with disability have also been working to make sure that information is available in Easy English and includes sign language and Braille translations.
“We participated in a demonstration in the foyer of the UN building, resulting in changes to procedures to ensure that all people with disability could enter the General Assembly for the opening of the conference,” Sands said.
“People with disability have a role to play in the development, monitoring and governance of our rights under international human rights treaties, and ensuring that the UN focuses on including us is an encouraging step forward.”
Catalina Devandas, the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, agreed the rights of people with disability should not be marginalised.
She said the new UN strategy would ensure people with disability were included in “all development, human rights and humanitarian aid efforts”.
She also agreed it marked a turning point for the inclusion of people with disability in all pillars of the UN’s work, but noted it was “just the starting point of a long process”.
“Social gains are only achieved when people fight for them,” Devandas said.
“It is this tireless fight that now allows people with disabilities to enjoy greater visibility on the international agenda.”
UN member states are now being urged to politically and financially support the strategy.