– World leaders meet in New York to discuss a disability-inclusive development agenda

Published on: Sep 24, 2013

“People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority; numbering more than 1 billion. They are a diverse and unique group. Each with unique gifts and abilities. Each with unique challenges.” With these words, John Ashe, president of the United Nations General Assembly, was closing the session of the United Nations General Assembly on Disability and Development, proclaiming the urgency to include persons with disabilities in the international development agenda.

In September, world leaders have gathered in New York to tackle humanity’s most intractable problems at the 68th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly. 193 UN Member States have met to discuss the steps necessary to improve the lives of people everywhere. Questions on vital issues including peace, security, sustainable development, environment and human rights, are being addressed. On September 23th, Ministers and diplomats from all over the world have reunited to adopt a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond.

The United Nations acknowledges that persons with disabilities in developing countries experience disproportionally high rates of poverty and that in all parts of the world, they are more likely to experience discrimination and prejudice. Persons with disabilities are subject to a range of barriers and are denied the right to education, social security, employment, health and other services that are available to the general public. Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there is an increasing awareness that persons with disabilities have not benefitted equally from the successes of the MDGs. The fact that MDG targets and indicators make no reference to persons with disabilities, has contributed to their exclusion from international development initiatives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told ministers and diplomats that ‘all our societies are stronger when every single one of our citizens, able bodied and disabled alike, all get to live up their full potential”. John Kerry called for inclusion of persons with disabilities in development and diplomacy agendas. GA-president John Ashe stressed the importance of a new global commitment: “Given the size of such a marginalised group, the onus is on us all to ensure that any future Sustainable Development Goals include persons with disabilities,” he said, referring to new U.N. goals being debated for 2015 to 2030 to fight poverty and promote equality.

During this session, the outcome document “The way forward, a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond” was adopted. This report reviews good practices and existing approaches to disability-inclusive development, drawing on the experience of the United Nations system in mainstreaming cross-cutting issues. The report concludes by recommending steps to include disability as an integral part of all development efforts, with a view to contributing to an action-oriented outcome document of the High-level Meeting.

Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations closed his participation in the session by saying “Let us proclaim the loudest voice possible: disability is not inability. I am proud to be at your side, together let us turn a new page in history of the United Nations by giving full meaning to the outcome document of this meeting. Let us work together so everyone, everywhere has a change to live their dreams and use the gifts they have been given. Let us advance disability inclusive development [..] and ensure a life of dignity for all.”

Earlier this year, The UN made the post-2015 development agenda public, calling for 5 big transformative shits in which persons with disabilities are explicitly addressed. This finally opens the way to an inclusive development agenda in which persons with disabilities are partners and beneficiaries.

You can watch the session of the High Level Meeting here

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