Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

High-Level Panel Meeting
organized by the President of the General Assembly in commemoration
of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 10 years ago was an outstanding achievement. Decades of advocacy – at national, regional and global levels – resulted in the development of a hallmark international treaty bringing hope to millions of women and men with disabilities worldwide.

The impact of the Convention is undeniable. The past 10 years have seen a major shift in the approach to disability and development away from one of charity, and away from a primarily medical focus.

At the international level, disability is now clearly understood to go beyond the individual condition and to encompass the impact of the physical and psychological environment. Disability is now seen to be as much a social phenomenon as it is about health or impairment. Even in the field of health, disability is defined with a clearer understanding of the social underpinnings.

With this shift in focus, we have seen an acceleration of the global commitment to realising the rights and role of persons with disabilities in development. This commitment has translated into a well-articulated and inseparably interlinked normative framework for disability inclusion, spanning the fields of social and economic development, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian action and urban planning, among others.

This tenth anniversary is being celebrated just one year after the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. This overarching development framework is intended to enable a sustainable development path that leaves no one behind. In stark contrast to previous umbrella frameworks at the international level, these agendas are explicit in their accounting for persons with disabilities, promoting disability inclusion in line with the principles of the Convention.

Central to our current development framework are a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. The SDGs call for data to be disaggregated by disability where relevant and include 11 indicators which refer explicitly to disability.  This means that, over the course of 15 years of implementation, countries will hold each other accountable for the reach of social protection to persons with disabilities and for addressing disparities in many areas but above all in education. Countries will be expected to ensure that schools are equipped with adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities. With full implementation, national statistics are expected to monitor earnings by employed persons with disabilities and account for those living below 50 per cent of median income. Countries should monitor and improve access to convenient public transport and public open spaces.  They should have a clearer picture of any physical and sexual harassment that persons with disabilities may face, and how this compares to the population without disabilities. Countries should monitor representation by persons with disabilities in public institutions and inclusive decision making, and work to improve it where it is lacking.

In support of country-level efforts, DESA has strengthened its disability statistics programme in support of the SDGs and is supporting several countries to build capacity to effectively measure the population of persons with disabilities and to improve the availability and quality of data for monitoring the SDGs.

The commitments have been made. Expectations are high.  Now it is time to deliver. With 169 parties to the Convention, we must expect success. We must expect delivery and effective implementation.  This is best accomplished through effective partnerships.

Governments, the United Nations, civil society and development cooperation institutions must continue to work together on disability as a cross-cutting issue, and ensure that the principles established by the Convention are mainstreamed into policy-making at all levels.

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