A man in a wheelchair in a conference room.

Messages 2021

Secretary-General's Message

Realizing the rights, agency, and leadership of persons with disabilities will advance our common future.  

We need everyone, including persons with disabilities, on board to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Around the world, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations are taking action to realize the call: ‘Nothing about us, without us’.  
COVID-19 has laid bare the persistent barriers and inequalities faced by the world’s 1 billion persons with disabilities, who have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.  

A disability-inclusive pandemic response and recovery should be guided by persons with disabilities themselves, forge partnerships, tackle injustice and discrimination, expand access to technology and strengthen institutions to create a more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world. 
I urge all countries to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, increase accessibility, and dismantle legal, social, economic and other barriers with the active involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us commit to build a sustainable, inclusive and just future for everyone, leaving no one behind.



António Guterres

António Guterres


Director-General of UNESCO

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to disproportionately affect persons with disabilities.

They are among the first victims of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. The associated social inequalities are compounded by inequalities in access to information, on account of the persistent lack of access to health guidance in Braille or sign language – a reminder of the need to take action to ensure that information is accessible to everyone.

As part of our lives has moved online, confinement measures have brought to the fore another series of inequalities affecting people with disabilities: the inequalities relating to technology and the digital world.

In that connection, at its most recent session, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted an important document: the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. This major advance is the first global standard-setting instrument in this domain. It is aimed at making sure that the inequalities and discrimination present in the real world are not intensified in the virtual world.

UNESCO will continue to work tirelessly to see to it that there is greater equality in the field of education as well. In keeping with our mandate, we are committed to supporting inclusive education because, to quote the title of the 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, “all means all”. The GEM Report points out that while 68% of countries have a definition of inclusive education, only 57% mention all the multiple marginalized groups.

In order to remedy the situation, UNESCO, on a daily basis, carries out activities which make it possible not only to inform public education policy by establishing global reference data, but also to change mindsets for the better, so that the prejudices which still pervade our societies can be eradicated. In this respect, particular attention must be given to the condition of girls and women with disabilities.

These are all crucial issues which UNESCO will raise at the next Global Disability Summit, which Ghana and Norway are co-hosting this February.

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, our Organization thus calls on the entire international community to work together to ensure respect for people’s differences.

Working alongside all the other agencies in the United Nations system, and with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as its guide, UNESCO will continue to strive determinedly for more equality so that no one is left behind.


Audrey Azoulay

Audrey Azoulay