Interactive discussion on including youth with disabilities in development

25 July 2011, Conference Room B, 1.15 to 2.30 p.m.

Side-event held to the High-Level Meeting on Youth, 25 – 26 July 2011, UN Headquarters, New York


The recently launched World Disability Report published by the World Bank and the World Health Organization in June 2011, states that 15% of the total global population or over 1 billion people experience some form of disability.

The General Assembly recognizes the vulnerabilities of young people, especially in the current financial and economic crisis. Although, youth with disabilities face the same issues as their non-disabled peers, societal prejudices, barriers, and ignorance further exacerbate their situation. The estimated 180-220 million youth with disabilities in the world today are marginalized and largely invisible in society, especially in education and the labour market; nearly 80% of them live in developing countries.

Education is critical for realizing the full potential of youth with disabilities. However, in general, children with disabilities are less likely to attend school. Estimates suggest that around 93 million children with disabilities are not in school. Low educational outcomes of children and adults is often more strongly linked to having a disability than to other factors such as gender, rural residence, and low economic status. Educational institutions are often inaccessible and lack appropriate facilities and trained staff. Not receiving the skills and qualifications to function in the wider society limits employment opportunities for young persons with disabilities.

The number of unemployed youth (aged 15–24) was 77.7 million with a global youth unemployment rate of 12.6 per cent in 2010. Unemployment rates for youth with disabilities are much higher than their non-disabled peers in both developed and developing countries. For example, in some countries of the Asia- Pacific region the unemployment rate of persons with disabilities is over 80%. Furthermore, discrimination and negative perceptions pose a formidable barrier to their employment.

The World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world.   The implementation of the WPAY will also enable the full enjoyment by young people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It promotes action by Governments to further the development and participation of all young women and men in society.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was adopted in 2006 provides all persons with disabilities including youth with disabilities human rights, facilitating a process that empowers them to address the multiple societal challenges they face. It prohibits disability-related discriminatory practices against persons with disabilities and calls upon Governments to implement legislation and measures to promote their rights. It stipulates the rights to education, employment, health and well-being to ensure that all persons with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, develop their full human potential.

Societal attitudes about disability can be addressed. Greater awareness and understanding of disabilities is fundamental to improving this situation. Technological innovations such as the Internet and software adaptations have created opportunities for youth with disabilities to break down barriers and increase their sense of belonging and interaction with their peers. However, progress has been slow for youth with disabilities are consistently marginalized in the disability and development agenda.

Providing opportunities for full and equal social, civic, and economic participation is beneficial not only to youth with disabilities, but also to their societies as youth can contribute fully to the country’s development and economic growth.

Interactive panel discussion:

The General Assembly will hold a High-level Meeting on Youth on 25 – 26 July 2011 as part of the International Year of Youth. The overarching theme of the Meeting will be “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”.

The panel discussion will be held as a side-event to the High-level Meeting and will bring together experts on youth development and disability, youth organizations, organizations of persons with disabilities and young people. The group will engage in an interactive dialogue, with a view to strengthening efforts to ensure the inclusion of youth with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts.

The event is organized by DESA and the International Disability Alliance in collaboration with UNICEF and Leonard Cheshire Disability International.

Welcome and Introduction:

Ms. Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, DESA


  • Mr. Vladimir Cuk, International Disability Alliance
  • Ms. Nicola Brandt, Human Rights Specialist, UNICEF
  • Mr. James Aniyamuzaala, African Youth with Disabilities Network
  • Video: “Disability is not inability!” Introduced by Ms. Chiedza Karen Nkomthazana, Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices, Zimbabwe
  • Mr. Mohammed Ishan Jalill, Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices, Sri Lanka


Ms. Akiko Ito, Chief, Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, DESA


Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations.

Photographs (provided by Leonard Cheshire Disability):

  1. Photograph of the Chair of the panel discussion, Ms. Daniela Bas in the center flanked by Ms. Akiko Ito on her right and Mr. Vladimir Cuk on her left
  2. Photograph of Mohammed Ishan Jalill, Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices, Sri Lanka, making his presentation
  3. Photograph of Ms. Ms. Chiedza Karen Nkomthazana, Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices, Zimbabwe, speaking to Ms. Nicola Brandt of UNICEF
  4. Photograph of the panel discussion underway which shows the CART service provider and the IFHOHYP representative, while Mr. Mohammed Ishan is making his presentation in the background.

Additional resources:

UN Programme on Youth
UNICEF Voices of Youth
Leonard Cheshire Disability
Young Voices-LCD