United Nations Aims to be ‘Employer of Choice’ for World’s 1 Billion Persons with Disabilities, Secretary-General Tells Conference of States Parties

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ opening remarks at the thirteenth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, held today:

I am pleased to join you for the thirteenth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Later this week, we will also observe the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

I take this issue of disability inclusion extremely seriously.  Securing the rights of persons with disabilities is necessary for upholding the values and principles of the United Nations Charter.

That is why, last year, I launched a United Nations system-wide disability inclusion strategy.  Its aim is to bring about lasting and transformative change in the Organization’s work on disability inclusion, across its policies, programmes and operations.  The strategy will contribute to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

One year on, the strategy is having a tangible impact.  In my first report to the General Assembly this year, 57 entities reported on their progress, as well as seven country teams that are participating in the early roll-out of the country team accountability scorecard on disability inclusion.

The report provides a first comprehensive assessment of disability inclusion within the United Nations system.  It presents an honest picture of where we are and shows where we need to improve — and we need to improve a lot.

For the most part, the system is still just beginning to consider disability inclusion in a comprehensive and coordinated manner, whether in relation to humanitarian action, human rights or sustainable development.  But, overall, the report demonstrates that the Strategy has triggered action across the United Nations system.  It has raised awareness and created a platform for coordination and knowledge-sharing on disability inclusion.

I feel that we have a collective commitment and a collective ambition to make progress.  This year’s Conference is taking place in unprecedented circumstances.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has been affecting communities and societies at their very core, deepening pre-existing inequalities.

Even under normal circumstances, the one billion persons with disabilities worldwide are less likely to enjoy access to education, health care and livelihoods or to participate and be included in the community in all its dimensions.  They are more likely to live in poverty and experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.  And, when crisis grips communities, persons with disabilities are among the worst affected.

The pandemic is exacerbating these inequalities and producing new threats.  In May this year, I issued a dedicated policy brief on COVID‑19 and persons with disabilities, which highlighted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic.  I called for our response and recovery to be more disability inclusive.

Promoting inclusion of persons with disabilities means first of all recognizing and protecting their rights.  These rights touch on every aspect of life:  the right to go to school, to live in one’s community, to access health care, to start a family, to engage in political participation, to be able to play sport, or to travel — and to have decent work.

Through the implementation of the disability inclusion strategy, the United Nations system is working to lead by example.  We want to be an employer of choice for persons with disabilities and I hope we will manage.

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.

This vision will only be achieved through active consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.  And so, we must ensure their full participation of persons with disabilities and their organizations in decision-making processes.  And as we move forward, we must take a whole-of-society approach to ensuring disability inclusion.

Only by working together — Governments, United Nations entities, civil society, including also the organizations of persons with disabilities, the private sector and communities of experts — can we effectively implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and tackle the obstacles, the injustices and the discrimination that persons with disabilities experience.

Realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is crucial to fulfilling the core promise of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development]:  to leave no one 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.  That is our goal and I thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.