UN Secretary General Calls for Greater Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities should have equal access to opportunities, including in COVID-19 response and recovery. This is according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres who saying fighting for such equality is a goal worth fighting for.

Guterres explained that realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is crucial to fulfilling the core promise of the 2030 Agenda, which strives to ensure no one is left behind.

“In all our actions, our goal is clear: a world in which all persons can enjoy equal opportunities, participate in decision-making, and truly benefit from economic, social, political, and cultural life. That is a goal worth fighting for,” he said, referring to the global action plan to bring about a more just and sustainable world. 

Commenting on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the UN Chief said the pandemic has deepened pre-existing inequalities affecting the world’s one billion persons with disabilities. 

“Even under normal circumstances, they were already less likely to access education, healthcare, and jobs, or to be included in their communities.”

Guterres was addressing countries that are party to the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Speaking at the same event, the Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Danlami Umaru Basharu echoed this assessment saying he was concerned that structural barriers, exclusion, and discrimination have worsened during the crisis.

“While I celebrate that there now 182 parties to the Convention, the pandemic has made evident that there is still a long way to go in fully understanding the human rights model of disability enshrined in the Convention, and therefore is fully implementing its provisions,” he said in a video message. 

In May, the Secretary-General issued a policy brief highlighting the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on persons with disabilities. 

Hope for an inclusive future

Guterres has urged countries to ensure the pandemic response and recovery are more disability-inclusive, starting with recognizing and protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities.  

“We must also ensure that the vision and aspirations of persons with disabilities are included and accounted for in a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world,” he said. 

The Secretary-General further emphasized that securing the rights of persons with disabilities is necessary for upholding the values and principles that underlie the UN. 

Last year, Guterres launched the UN-wide Disability Inclusion Strategy, aimed at bringing about lasting and transformative change across the Organization and its operations. 

The strategy also reflects how the UN is working to lead by example, he added, as the global body wants to be an employer of choice for persons with disabilities. 

Margaret Njuguna