Breaking down barriers for persons with disabilities
Many of the world’s one billion persons living with a disability remain excluded from development in areas such as education, employment and healthcare. As a result, they experience higher rates of poverty and unemployment, and lower life-expectancy than the general population. As part of ongoing efforts to break down barriers and to ensure an inclusive society for all, a one-day high-level meeting of the General Assembly on Disability and Development (HLMD) will be held on 23 September 2013.
The High-level Meeting takes place five years after the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and two years before the 2015 target date for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Meeting is held against the backdrop of ongoing international dialogue towards development of a new post-2015 agenda.
Disability remained invisible
Despite the support of the Convention, disability has remained largely invisible in most mainstream development agenda and processes. Even if the commitment to development includes people with disabilities, a considerable gap remains between the commitment and what happens on the ground. The international community as well as individual governments are committed to achieve development goals for all, but a perspective of disability and concerns of persons with disabilities were too often absent in development frameworks and processes. An example of such exclusion is in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), where persons with disabilities and their concerns, now numbering over a billion, were often invisible in development processes both at global and national levels.
Without taking actions such as allocating resources, developing disability-inclusive policies and programmes, as well as monitoring and evaluating progress, disability will be left out of development. These actions would help mainstreaming disability in development by the international community and governments.
An action-oriented outcome document expected
The High level meeting on Disability and Development, to be convened at the level of heads of States and Governments, is expected to result in a concise, action-oriented outcome document in support of the aims of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities. Prior to the convening of the HLMDD on 23 September 2013, an outcome document will be drafted by Member States, taking into full account the input from persons with disabilities and their organizations as well as other relevant stakeholders, for adoption by the High Level Meeting itself.
Regional and other forms of consultations took place recently in Brussels (Belgium), Bahia (Brazil), Bangkok (Thailand) and Tunis (Tunisia), as well as in other countries/ regions with the aim to contribute to the High Level meeting. DESA, in partnership with UNICEF, conducted online global consultations from 8 March to 5 April 2013 in all UN official languages as well as other languages. Representatives of Governments, UN agencies and civil society organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities participated and contributed their perspectives, in the consultations.
Time to translate the commitment into action
Disability-inclusive and participatory approach to such consultations has contributed to the preparation of the outcome document and will make possible the inclusion of disability in the on-going work of the post-2015 development framework.
During the fifth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Wu Hongbo, highlighted that “It is now time to translate the commitment into action to mainstream disability in development. After all, it is our responsibility as members of the international community and citizens of our own countries to bring about positive changes to more than one billion persons with disabilities and their communities worldwide”.
Since its entry into force in 2008, 131 countries have ratified or acceded to the CRPD, and 155 have signed it. The Optional Protocol to the CRPD has 76 ratifications and 91 signatories.