There are more than 1 billion people with some form of disability, accounting for 15 per cent of the world population. In spite of remarkable advances towards accessible and disability-inclusive societies, an enormous gap remains between commitments made and the daily experiences of persons with disabilities. A concerted effort must therefore be made to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as promised in the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. Appointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility since June 2017, Ms. María Soledad Cisternas Reyes has been promoting the rights of persons with disabilities at regional and global levels.
Prior to the current appointment, Ms. Cisternas was the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the United Nations and recipient of the National Prize of Human Rights (2014-2015). She has been working closely with the United Nations on disability issues for the past two decades, including serving as an expert before the ad hoc committee that developed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for which she was also the rapporteur for individual complaints.
As a human rights lawyer by training, she also serves as a professor in various universities and contributes to the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities at national, regional and international levels.
Ms. Cisternas trained municipal judges, civil servants and members of civil society in various regions of Chile in different aspects of the rights of persons with disabilities, drawing on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; co-produced the documentary “Six Women in America” dealing with the process of the implementation of the Convention from a gender perspective; and advised the Human Rights Secretariat of the Latin American Union of Blind Persons (ULAC) and members of the Advisory Group of the Ibero-American Network of Non-Governmental Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and their Families (RIADIS).
She graduated from the Universidad Catolica de Chile with a law degree, and was awarded the title of Supreme Court attorney. Ms. Cisternas has also completed her Master’s studies in political science at the same university with a focus on political institutions and processes.
- Promising practices in response to violence against girls and women with disabilities in Latin America and the Hispanic Caribbean: Executive Summary English | Spanish
Full document English Spanish
Access to Justice Spanish
Access to services Spanish
- Presentation at the COSP14 Side Event Promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in just transition towards a sustainable economy. Organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland – International Labour Organization, and sponsored by International Disability Alliance. 17 June 2021. Text in English and Spanish. The video of the event is available at https://youtu.be/4qNTVFDFOJQ
- The Special Envoy will participate at the Next Events. Links for information/registration are provided:
1. 2021 HLPF HIGH-LEVEL SIDE EVENT: SDGs and The Marrakesh Treaty. Wednesday, July 7, 2021., 8 am – 9 am EST. Organized by the Kingdom of Morocco / WIPO. To register: https://wipo-int.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Etd-msrDsrG9OfGEVt3_MnNM_fPULktxcV
2. Third international meeting on bullying: Bullying involving children and young people with disabilities. 6 July 2021. 13:00 – 15:00 (Paris time). Organizers: UNESCO and the World Anti-Bullying Forum (WABF). Registration More information #StopBullying
- Statement at the Opening of the COSP14. English | Spanish.
- Intervention at the Interactive Dialogue. English | Spanish.
- Intervention at the “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Access to justice”. Organizers: UNDESA and The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), 15 June 2021.
- Presentation at the 14 COSP Side Event Financial Empowerment and Building Cities4All. Organizer: World Enabled, New York City Mayor’s Office of Persons with Disabilities, the Workers Lab. June 15th, 2021. English | Spanish.
- Presentation at the COSP14 Side Event Representation Matters! Deaf Members in the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.Organizers: Permanent Mission of Austria to the UN, World Federation of the Deaf, Light for the World, 16 June 2021. English | Spanish.
- Presentation at the COSP14 Side Event “Protecting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during Pandemics and Crises”. Organized by: League of Arab States (LAS), the State of Kuwait and ESCWA, and the Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities, 14 June 2021. English | Spanish.
- COSP14 High-Level Side Event on “For Inclusive Quality Police Services for Persons with Disabilities” 15 June, 1:15 – 2:30 pm (EDT). This event is organized by the Office of the Special Envoy of the UN-SG on Disability and Accessibility and is sponsored by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). Co-sponsors: Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN, Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the UN, Permanent Mission of Chile to the UN, International Disability Alliance (IDA), World Enabled, and UNDESA.
Invitation English | Spanish
- Webinar on Reimagining cooperation on sport for persons with disabilities, leaving no one behind, 10 November 2020.
- Webinar: “Promising Practices to Respond to Gender-Based Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities” organized UNFPA and Humanity & Inclusion, Thursday 22 October. 9:00-11:00 Panama time. The Webinar is in Spanish. Simultaneous interpretation into English and Sign Language will be provided.
- UNFPA y Humanity & Inclusion organizan Webinar: “Prácticas Prometedoras en la Respuesta a la Violencia contra Mujeres y Niñas con Discapacidad”. El Webinar es en español y se contará con servicio de interpretación simultánea de español a inglés y también interpretación a lengua de señas. Fecha: Jueves 22 de Octubre Hora: 9:00 a 11:00 am. hora Panamá
- Web Seminar on “Protecting and Empowering Persons with Disabilities in the African Region in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, 29 October 2020, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (EST).
Flyer | Agenda | Video
- Empowering and Protecting Persons with Disabilities during and after COVID-19: A Conversation with the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility, October 30, 2020, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EST). Flyer | Agenda | Video
- International Principles and Guidelines on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities: The guidelines are the product of joint work by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility. English | Français| Español
- Webinar “COVID-19, Amplifying Voices: Our Lives, Our Say”, 4 September 2020
- Appointment of Catalina Devandas-Aguilar as Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United Nations
English | Français | Español
- The right to life of persons with disabilities in the pandemic English | Français | Español |
- Statement by the Special Envoy at the Global Forum on the COVID-19 crisis and persons with disabilities: Building back better towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable world for all, 3 August 2020
- Statement by the Special Envoy at the ECOSOC High-level Segment on “Where are we headed? Vision and scenarios for the future of the SDGs after the COVID-19 crisis”, 17 July 2020
- On the occasion of the Fourth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, Oslo, Norway (November 25 – 29, 2019), the Special Envoy conducted some interviews with landmine Survivors and also with some Mandates and Authorities of the Convention.
- Join the Cities4All Webinar – Equity and Accessibility in Times of Pandemic: Building “Cities For All” Post-COVID19. Register here.
- Important Judgement of the Supreme Court of Chile in relation to a person with Down Syndrome:
English | Español | Français
- Protección a través de la inclusión: Desinstitucionalización de Emergencia en las Américas: Seminar in Spanish to be held on 12 June 2020, organized by Disability Rights International. Register here | Flyer
- Modelo para la participación de las personas con discapacidad de Guatemala: Seminar in Spanish that was held on 4 June 2020, organized by OHCHR Guatemala.
- Joint Statement “Local governments and persons with disabilities in relation to Covid-19
English | Español | Français
- Webinar: Protecting and Empowering Persons with Disabilities in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, 15 May 2020: Join the UN Special Envoy on Disability & Accessibility policymakers and disability advocates to develop disability-inclusive responses to the #COVID19 pandemic.
- Seminario web: El impacto multidimensional de la crisis por la COVID-19 en las personas con discapacidad
Ante los retos sociales, económicos y sanitarios, especialistas internacionales y organizaciones de personas con discapacidad dialogarán en línea el miércoles 6 de mayo sobre cómo superar la crisis de manera inclusiva, 6 May 2020
- Joint Statement: Women and girls with disabilities and older women in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic English | Español | Français
- Joint Statement: The right to life of persons with disabilities and older persons infected by Covid-19
English | Français | Español
- Joint Statement: Mental Health of Persons with Disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, 15 April 2020
English | Français | Español
- Joint Statement: Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 by the Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), on behalf of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility, 1 April 2020 English | Français | Español
- Universal Accessibility Promotion Video (English)
- Universal Accessibility Promotion Video (Spanish)
- Universal Accessibility Promotion Poster (English)
- Concept Note
2) The 41st Kyosaren Nacional Conference, Open Symposium on the implementation of the UNCRPD in every corner of the Community in Japan (Kyoto, Japan, September 2018):
- “How we can take advantage of the CRPD for the inclusion of persons with disabilities?” (September 21, Abstract 1 )
- “Persons with disabilities and inclusion, focusing in legal capacity, employment and independent living” (September 22, Abstract 2)
3) Real Madrid video (English and Spanish version)
4) Second regional launch of the campaign on the”Good treatment of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities” (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 29, 2018)
- Global Campaign launched for good treatment of children and adolescents with disabilities in Africa, press release, Addis Ababa, 29 November 2018 (ECA)
- Link to the Report: Watch the video here
- The Special Envoy also met with the African Union, UN Habitat, UNECA, Government Ministers and Civil Society, among others
5) International Day of Persons with Disabilities:
During this celebration, the Campaign on “Good treatment of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities in the world”, was launched at Strathmore University in Kenya.
On this visit to Kenya, the Special Envoy had the opportunity to have personal contact with Don Orione Community Training Center, directly linked to the experience of inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families, through work in agriculture, and other diverse aspects of inclusion in the community. She also met persons with intellectual disabilities and their families who are part of Special Olympics International, sharing with children with disabilities and their families regarding their rehabilitation experiences in the community. She visited the Lions Sight First Eye Hospital, and the joint Project of inclusion at school of Unicef and Special Olympics.
6) Celebrating the 10 years of the entry into force of the Convention CRPD:
Messages from relevant actors who were involved in the negotiations of the Convention and current leaders of the international civil society of persons with disabilities. They were collected by the Special Envoy and edited by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI).
7) Third regional launch of the campaign on the”Good treatment of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities” for Latin America (Santiago, Chile, January 11, 2019)
8) Participation in the Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, 40th session of the Human Rights Council. Presentation of the Global Campaign “Good treatment of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities” as a good practice in the Panel: “Including children with disabilities in education settings: Good practices and accountability”.
9) Fourth regional launch of the campaign on the”Good treatment of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities” for Middle East (Beirut, Lebanon, March 7, 2019).
- Video Presentation by the Special Envoy
- Press release English | عربي
- In Beirut, Lebanon, the Special Envoy held interviews with State Ministers in favor of the ratification of the CRPD, in addition to visits to centers and hospitals dedicated to the rehabilitation of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities.
10) Participation on the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Opening Ceremony and other related activities supporting the right to sport as a bridge to the exercise of other human rights for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Presentation of the Special Envoy at the opening ceremony of the 12th Conference of the States Parties to the CRPD, entitled “Ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities in a changing world through the implementation of the CRPD”, june 11, 2019, UN New York.
11) “High-Level Meeting of Women with Disabilities in Political and Public Leadership: Towards Beijing + 25”. On June 12th took place an encounter of these Women leaders as a side event in the context of the COSP12. The Women leaders in Political and Public leadership signed a Declaration towards Beijing +25 and beyond, for the empowerment of all women and girls with disabilities. This initiative was promoted by the Special Envoy and co-organized with UN Women.
12) Research on Adoption of girls and boys with disabilities, regarding legal and psycho-social scope. The research seeks to make visible the situation of institutionalized girls and boys with disabilities, and their right to live in a family, on equal terms with others.
13) Participation of the Special Envoy in the Commemoration of the 25 years of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women “Convention of Belem do Para”, on July 29 and 30, 2019, organized by The Government of Panama. She presented on the Panel: “The role of International Monitoring Mechanisms to guarantee the right to a life free of violence for women and girls”.
14) Fostering Partnerships: Global Conference on Assistance to Victims of Anti-Personnel Mines and Other Explosive Remnants of War and Disability Rights. Organized by Special Envoy of the AP Mine Ban Convention and Anti ‐ Personnel Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit, Amman, Jordan. Presentation of the Special Envoy at the Official opening of the meeting: “Realizing the Rights of Victims of Anti-Personnel Mines and other Explosive Remnants of War” and participation in Plenary Session: Four Cooperation and Assistance; Fostering Partnerships (september 10-12, 2019).
15) Participation of the Special Envoy in Meeting “Maternity and women with disabilities in Chile” on September 30, 2019. Organized by the Emancipatory Circle Corporation of Women and Girls with Disabilities of Chile, CIMUNIDIS, Santiago, Chile
16) Second Ibero-American Meeting of Ministers of Social Affairs on october 7-8, 2019: “Innovation and Inclusion in the Field of Disability”, organized by Pro Tempore Secretariat, Andorra la Vella, Andorra. Special Envoy participation in Plenary Session 1: “Synergies and interrelation: human rights, SDGs and disability”.
17) Presentation of the “Somos” Campaign on october 11, 2019. Official act of “Fundación Universia´s website on inclusive education”. Organized by Fundación Universia, Madrid, Spain. The Special Envoy is the author of the content of that website.
18) Meetings in UNESCO on october 14-15, 2019: Special Envoy meets with Assistant Director-General for Education of UNESCO; Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO; Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO; and with the person in charge of world citizenship and culture of peace of UNESCO.
Participation of the Special Envoy as speaker in the Townhall on Accessible and Inclusive Cities, within the framework of the UCLG World Congress (United Cities and Local Governments), with the Presentation “Accessibility: Pilar and Bridge for the exercise of Human Rights”, November 11-15, 2019, Durban, South Africa.
19) Participation of the Special Envoy in The Fourth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, Oslo, Norway, and in the Expert Meeting of Victim Assistance. She attends the Victim Assistance Committee Meeting and delivers at the opening her speech regarding the renewing of the Political Commitment to the Convention (November 25-29, 2019).
20) Launch of the website on the 10 Principles of the Global Campaign “Good treatment of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities in the world”, in ECLAC.
The purpose of this site is to promote and disseminate the 10 Principles for the protection, development and well-being of children and adolescents with disabilities, which can be found in different languages, including indigenous languages and in accessible format. We invite you to browse the website and be one more in the commitment to their rights! www.my10principles.com (December 4, 2019).
21) Participation in the launch of translations in Chilean indigenous languages of the 10 Principles of the Global Campaign on the good treatment of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities in the world. Organized by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Chile (December 5, 2019).
22) Special Envoy participates in the Follow-up Mechanism of the Convention of Belém do Pará, MESECVI: Meeting of Experts. “Accessibility Barriers and Women with Disabilities Victims and Survivors of Violence”. Dictates Keynote Conference to inaugurate the Meeting and participates in the Permanent Council Meeting of the Organization of American States (December 9, 2019).
23) Presentation before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) within the framework of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 11, 2019).
24) Special Envoy´s participation at the premiere of “Pacto de Fuga” Movie (january 21, 2020), by the Chilean filmmaker David Albala.
25) Side event “Violence and abuse against women and girls with disabilities”, in the framework of the XIV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Organized by the Special Envoy´s Office, with Cimunidis as a cosponsor (january 29, 2020) Santiago, Chile.