Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility

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, 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 is also the rapporteur for individual complaints.

As a human rights lawyer by training, she also serves as the director of the Legal Programme on Disability in the faculty of law of Diego Portales University, 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.


Speeches

Special Envoy of the UN-SG on Disability and Accessibility at COSP12

12th session of the Conference of State Parties to the CRPD

11th session of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD

 High-Level Political Forum 2018: “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”

9th Open-ended Working Group on Ageing

  • Human Rights of Older Persons: A New Challenge for the Twenty-First Century English | Español

Campaign Materials


Ongoing Projects 

 First regional launch of the campaign on the"Good treatment of boys, girls and adolescents with disabilities"  First regional launch of the campaign on the"Good treatment of boys, girls and adolescents with disabilities"

1) First regional launch of the campaign on the”Good treatment of boys, girls and adolescents with disabilities” ( Bangkok, Thailand, September 25, 2018) Concept Note | Press Release | Video


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):

Conferences:


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)


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).


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) 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)

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)


Human Rights Council -

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”.


Arab region launching -   Visits to centers and hospitals dedicated to the rehabilitation of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities

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.

Special Olympics Ribbon Cutting and Inclusive Health Forum  Inclusive Health Forum

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.


Declaration towards Beijing +25 and beyond

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.


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".

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”.


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).

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


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”.

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.