Mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda will be the main focus of the Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as they meet in New York from 9-11 June.
Gathering hundreds of disability activists and Government delegates, the 8th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD constitutes one of the largest and most diverse international meetings on disability. The annual review of the Convention will examine the implementation of the binding agreement adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 to reaffirm that the one billion persons with disabilities, 15% of the world’s population, must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The conference will also feature for the first time a panel discussion on leprosy in the context of disability. While now curable, leprosy is a cause of disability with access to treatment remaining a challenge, along with important stigma and discrimination attached to it.
“The international community has come a long way since 2006, but the new development agenda is our opportunity to go further and include people of all abilities in all aspects of economy and society,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. “The world will simply not reach its full potential if the talent and expertise of 15% of its population remains mostly unused.”
With 20% of the world’s poorest persons living with disabilities, the link between poverty and disability will be a key emphasis of the meeting. Persons with disabilities are statistically more likely to experience poverty, while poverty itself also increases the incidence of disability. The link between poverty and disability is particularly striking as 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. This also marks disability as a significant cross-cutting issue of the new development agenda.
Promoting the rights of women and children with disabilities
The most vulnerable groups of persons with disabilities, women and children, will be another central element of the conference as they represent some of the most disadvantaged demographics globally.
While the right to education is clearly affirmed by the Convention, 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries still do not attend school. But while the global literacy rate is as low as 3% for all adults with disabilities, it is down to 1% for women with disabilities, as women with disabilities face additional barriers to achieving gender equality. They also suffer the consequences inadequate access to healthcare, including maternal health services. In addition, women with disabilities experience higher rates of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation compared to women without disabilities.
Disability and disaster settings
The meeting will also address the situation of persons with disabilities in vulnerable circumstances, such as disasters and humanitarian crisis.
Due to a lack of awareness and inaccessible evacuation, response and recovery efforts, the mortality rate of the disabled population is estimated two to four times higher than that of the non-disabled population in disaster settings.
Including persons with disabilities when planning for emergencies will not only take into account their specific situations, it will also benefit from their unique experience and expertise and allow a better general outcome. During the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami for instance, adults and children with disabilities who had been trained for emergency situations led evacuations and saved the lives of other members of their community.
UN continuous efforts towards full accessibility
In this context the UN system is continuing to push towards full accessibility of its premises and information. Most recently, the New York Headquarters inaugurated a new and dedicated service dog relief area. Following the success of the New York Accessibility Centre, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)opened its own Centre last month in order to support the participation of persons with disabilities in all intergovernmental processes and meetings. The UN Department of Public Information also just launched a new website on web accessibility. Designed to sensitise users to some of the experiences faced by persons with disabilities visiting non-accessible websites, the platform also provides resources and tools to improve web accessibility.
Additional information on the Conference and on UN Enable is available at: http://www.un.org/disabilities
The Conference can be followed live at: www.un.org/webcast