Secretary-General Stresses Need to Ensure All Members of Human Family Have Chance at Living Full Lives, in Message for Global Disability Summit
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Global Disability Summit, held virtually today:
It is my pleasure to join you for the opening of the second Global Disability Summit. My thanks to the International Disability Alliance and the Governments of Norway and Ghana for bringing us together.
We are meeting in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. COVID-19 intensified glaring inequalities — and produced new threats. Persons with disabilities are losing their lives at vastly higher rates due to persistent barriers in health systems.
When schools shut down, many students with disabilities are left without access to technology and assistive devices for effective remote learning. Workers with disabilities — who were already experiencing exclusion and marginalization — are often the first to lose their jobs and the last to be re-hired. Women and girls with disabilities — who were already experiencing double discrimination — are facing even higher risk of violence and abuse.
The last two years have painfully demonstrated the urgent need for all of us to work together to advance the rights of persons with disabilities around the world. In 2018, Governments and organizations came together to make ambitious global and national commitments to disability inclusion. This Summit provides an opportunity to reflect on those efforts and commit to do more.
I see three priorities.
First, we need more disability-inclusive development. Persons with disabilities are often among the poorest and most disadvantaged members of the community. They must be at the front and centre of our efforts. We need to act decisively to realize and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in every corner of the world and in every facet of life.
Global inequalities reverberate at the local level. When developing countries are strangled financially, people with disabilities are among the first victims. That is why we need a reformed global financial system allowing far greater investments in disability inclusion to create accessible environments and opportunities everywhere. Everyone, everywhere, must be free to go to school, to access health care, to start a family, have decent work and participate fully in all spheres of economic, social, cultural and political life.
Second, we need broader and deeper cooperation. We must take a whole-of-society approach to ensuring disability inclusion. Only by working together — across Governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector — can we effectively implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for persons with disabilities.
Third, we need the leadership of persons with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities, and their representative organizations. The foundation of our cooperation must be based on active consultation with persons with disabilities in their full diversity and their full inclusion in decision-making processes. We must realize the powerful call of persons with disabilities: “Nothing about us, without us”.
The United Nations is committed to lead by example. I was honoured to launch the first-ever United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy in 2019 to bring about lasting and transformative change in the Organization’s work across all our programmes and operations. The Strategy has provided a clear framework to advance disability inclusion in a comprehensive and coordinated manner, whether in relation to humanitarian action, human rights or sustainable development.
The Strategy has also uncovered areas where we need to do more — much more. That is why we are strengthening our Organization from Headquarters to the field to ensure that we are fit for purpose on disability inclusion and in supporting Governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for persons with disabilities. Looking ahead, the 2030 Agenda — together with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — will remain our compass towards an inclusive recovery.
Together, we are here to break barriers, shift mindsets and open doors. To make bold and credible commitments. And ultimately, to make sure every member of the human family has a chance to live their lives fully. Led by persons with disabilities, we can — and we will — forge partnerships; expand access to inclusive, quality education and decent work; ensure healthy lives; and create a more inclusive, just and sustainable world for all.