Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s remarks, as delivered, at the high-level round table on disability and COVID-19, hosted by the Global Action on Disability Network today:
Disability inclusion is a priority for the United Nations, and central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda — to leave no one behind. With the COVID-19 crisis, persons with disabilities are among the hardest hit.
Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities were already less likely to access education, health care and livelihoods or to participate and be included in the community. They are more likely to live in poverty, and experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse. This is further exacerbated for those living in humanitarian and fragile contexts.
The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities. COVID-19 has made it clear that we must act now to ensure the meaningful inclusion of persons with disabilities in our societies.
Last year, the Secretary-General launched the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy. The Strategy is our commitment to achieving transformative and lasting change across the United Nations system.
Since the launch of the Strategy we have made much headway at all levels. United Nations country teams in all regions have been working to ensure that the needs and rights of persons with disabilities are met, with COVID-19 as a watershed moment to recover better, with more inclusion. In our efforts, we are closely working in collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities, including women. We have established a United Nations country team accountability scorecard on disability inclusion, ensuring that all we do on the ground is disability-inclusive.
Building on his commitment, in May, the Secretary-General launched his policy brief on a disability-inclusive response to COVID-19. It outlines four overarching areas of action: mainstreaming of disability in COVID-19 response and recovery; accessibility of information, facilities, services and programmes; meaningful consultation with — and active participation of — persons with disabilities and their representative organizations; and establishment of accountability mechanisms to ensure a disability-inclusive COVID-19 response.
Close to 150 Member States have expressed their support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations. We now need to follow up with urgent action.
An emergency working group has been established to strengthen and support the work of the United Nations system, from Headquarters to the field. Work is already under way with the Secretary-General Fund for COVID-19, and United Nations country teams are required to undertake assessments on how to effectively include persons with disabilities.
The daunting challenges we face today also provide opportunities to come together to support innovative approaches and share good practices and lessons learned. Our common goal is simple: to build a future that is inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities.
The Global Action on Disability Network can play a critical role in driving disability inclusion in the Decade of Action in our journey towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Together with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our compass.
We don’t need to re-invent the wheel. But we do need to reflect on our existing approaches and find innovative solutions to bring them in line with the provisions of these instruments and agreements.
I count on the Global Action on Disability Network’s continuing efforts to promote collaboration among stakeholders in development cooperation. And I count on Member States to play their part in ensuring an enabling environment for upholding the rights of persons with disabilities. We must work to build a society that is just, inclusive, accessible and resilient for everyone. When we secure the rights of persons with disabilities, we invest in our common future.