“With 185 ratifications since its adoption in 2006, the Convention has crystallized the commitment of the international community to realize an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable world for all”.
Mr. Guterres noted that 92 per cent of States Parties has adopted national disability laws, more than 60 per cent have taken actions to prohibit discrimination in the labour market, nearly 90 per cent have passed laws protecting the rights of children with disabilities to education, and the percentage of countries with school materials supporting the inclusion of students with disabilities has more than doubled.
Unfortunately, the UN chief said, that progress has been overturned by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed existing inequalities and given rise to new threats.
“Even before the pandemic, persons with disabilities were less likely to enjoy access to education, healthcare, and livelihoods…[and] when COVID-19 struck communities, persons with disabilities were among the worst affected”, he said.
This is also true in armed conflicts, the Secretary-General said, pointing out that “persons with disabilities are often unable to flee the violence and do not receive adequate humanitarian support.”
Reminding that the Convention as well as Resolution 2475 called on Member States to ensure the equal protection of persons with disabilities and provide safe, timely and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance, he urged States to “fulfil those obligations”.
Steep climb ahead
Fifteen years since the adoption of the Convention, Mr. Guterres highlighted “three critical avenues” to move on, beginning with harnessing technology to enhance inclusion.
“Embracing the promise of technology means closing the digital divide; expanding accessibility and inclusivity; and better protection for people against its perils”, he said.
Second, is to promote economic empowerment and entrepreneurship to advance the participation of persons with disabilities in the labour market on equal terms.
Finally, he called for progress in the climate action arena.
“Persons with disabilities are two to four times more likely to die during hurricanes, tsunamis and other natural disasters,” he pointed out.
‘Cornerstone’ of cooperation
Across all three priorities, the UN chief raised the need for broader cooperation between Governments, international organizations, 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,” Mr. Guterres said.
“We need the leadership of persons with disabilities, particularly women, and their representative organizations”.
He said action needed to be guided by the “clear and vital call” of persons with disabilities themselves -“Nothing about us, without us”.