Ms. Shamshad Akhtar Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Inter-Agency Support Group for the CRPD (IASG) High Level Side Event “The UN delivering as one in enabling a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”
23 September 2013, New York
The United Nations has for years been at the center of raising advocacy and galvanizing support for a disability-inclusive development. This agenda will be extended, broadened and deepened to integrate disability with Post-2015 and beyond. Progress in integrating disability in the development agenda has been made in many fronts. In the United Nations, disability is interpreted as both a human rights and a development issue. In the Secretary General’s report “A Life of Dignity for All” there is a strong recognition of both dimensions.
In June last year, the inter-linkages between disability and sustainable development were addressed at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). We also see promising steps taken in the process towards the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda. In May of this year, the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda issued its report, which addressed disability as a cross-cutting development issue, as well as in relation to human rights, participation and monitoring.
Within the United Nations, DESA is supporting promotion of the improvement of the standards of living of persons with disabilities through their empowerment and full and effective participation on an equal basis with others. Our aspiration is to improve the access and services for the more than 1 billion people who for one reason or another suffer from any form of disability. Around 780 million in this group are of working age. A recent study in a group of low- and middle-income developing countries indicated that the loss of gross domestic product (GDP) from the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour market is between 3 to 7 per cent. To realize the potential of working population it is critical that focus be on removing existing barriers – including physical, social, economic and cultural barriers- that hinder their access to education, skills development, employment, health services. The removal of these barriers, combined with inclusive growth and social policies would be the most cost-effective way to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
To address issues relating to disability, it is important to find mechanisms to bring development support to around 93 million children, or 1 in 20 under the age of 14 that have some form of disability. Children with disabilities are less likely to finish primary school – this is true for both girls and boys with disabilities and improving the access to them would be critical.
Strong political commitment will help clear a major backlog in terms of including disability in international and regional development frameworks, as well as in their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In countries where a significant progress has been made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, it is important to extend benefits and gains of growth and social progress to persons with disabilities. Strategic investments to develop inclusive and accessible societies benefits not only persons with disabilities, it benefits everyone.
Supporting the intergovernmental bodies and processes, DESA contributes to Member States efforts to mainstream disability in development through its analytical work, the implementation of catalytic projects to support the capacity-building of Member States, and the collaboration with multi-stakeholders in both disability and development communities around the world.
DESA is working to support relevant dialogues in many ways. In July, working in partnership with Member States, UN entities and civil society, we held the inaugural session of its “UN DESA Forum: Dialogue on Post-2015 Development Frameworks and Disability.” DESA established the Forum to facilitate policy dialogue on disability-inclusive development and to facilitate the formation of partnerships to scale up impact. DESA has also continued to work with the Special Rapporteur on disability of the Commission for Social Development and established a multi-stakeholder partnership, the African Disability Forum.
Priority issues in which DESA has been focusing on include accessibility, situation of particular groups with disabilities (such as women, youth, children and indigenous persons), emergency and disaster response, and international development cooperation. DESA recognises that the lack of reliable data and statistics on disability is a major obstacle. I would like to take this opportunity to call upon all stakeholders to strengthen collaborative efforts to improve the collection, analysis and use of disability statistics in planning, implementation and monitoring of development targets and indicators.
DESA is also a founding member of the newly established UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, launched in December 2011. A Multi-Donor-Trust Fund has been established to support its objectives. DESA together with UNDP and UNICEF is implementing a global project on strengthening disability in the post-2015 development framework. As part of this project a new publication “Towards an inclusive and accessible future for all”, that documents the voices of persons with disabilities and their aspirations for the future, will be launched tomorrow.
DESA is also privileged to be serving as the Secretariat for the General Assembly’s 2013 High-level Meeting on Disability and Development. The High-level meeting is an important milestone. It provides a crucial opportunity to mainstream disability in all aspects of development.
As we look to the future, the advancement of disability-inclusive development will continue to be a major priority for the Department. DESA stands ready to provide our expertise in supporting member states and other stakeholders in their efforts to implement the provisions of the outcome document “The way forward toward, a disability inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”.
As the SG stated this morning, “Let us advance disability-inclusive development, inspire change on the ground and build a better world for all”.
 A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development, The Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, 2013