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Up to 150 million children around the world are estimated to be living with a disability. Many are excluded from education and other opportunities.

In February 2016, Iwas proud to stand up and present to the plenary session of a youth-issues forum.Just over 24  hours  later, I could  barely  stand  at  all, due  to  a sudden and mysterious pain and weakness in my right leg. As it progressively worsened  over the following weeks,then months, I needed crutches  or a cane  to  get  around. The  city  I had  once effortlessly navigated my way around abruptly became intimidating  and  hard  to manage. People  began  to stare at me as I struggled   to  coordinate   walking,   and  any place that involved stairs or a long walk was off-limits. Without warning, I had been thrust into the world of disability.

I’m   not   alone   in my   experiences.  It  is estimated   that  15  percent   of  the  world’s population – around one billion people – live with a disability,so even if you do not have a disability  yourself, you are  likely  to have  a friend,family member or co-worker who does.

There is huge diversity amongst people with disabilities (PWDs), they can be of any age, gender, race, class, or ethno-cultural background. There are, however, certain people who are more likely to be affected by disability.

The difficult circumstances facing so many PWDs mean that a concerted effort must be made to ensure they are included in the current efforts to transform our world with the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A  central impetus  of  the Agenda  is to ‘leave  no  one  behind’,  meaning  that  all  people everywhere,       regardless of  their individual circumstances or characteristics, must be included as active participants in the journey to 2030.It means going beyond averages, ensuring the inclusion of people who have previously been excluded, uncounted, left behind or  overlooked due to their vulnerabilities  or stigmatization – which  has  often  been  PWDs.  For example, the major development process at the turn of the   century,   the   Millennium   Development   Goals (MDGs), did not reference PWDs, thus excluding them from   a   wide   range   of   initiatives,   and   reducing opportunities for their voices to be heard and their needs to be met. The 2030 Agenda is much more inclusive­ the  words  “disability”  or  •persons  with  disabilities” are specifically mentioned 11 times in the Resolution (70/1), as well as in targets for Goals 4, 8, 10, 11 and Of course, the universal nature of the Agenda means that all Goals and targets are relevant for PWDs, as for any other group of people.

Even before the 2030 Agenda had come into play, the world had started to move in the right direction with the 2006  adoption  of  the  Convention  on  the  Rights  of Persons  with   Disabilities  (CRPD),  (A/RES/61/106). CRPD has been a vital framework to ensuring all rights for PWDs-civil, cultural, political, social and economic; and has a scope and ambition that goes well beyond previous initiatives such as 1993’s ‘Standard Rules on the  Equalization  of  Opportunities  for  Persons  with Disabilities’.  The   implementation  of  the  CRPD  is monitored through regular meetings of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a body made up  of 18 independent experts, many of  whom  have disabilities themselves.

Here at UNDP, we commit ourselves to the inclusion of all,including PWDs,in our work to empower people and build resilient  nations, and  in our work  towards the SDGs. UNDP is part of the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), a unique collaborative effort between UN entities, governments and civil society that supports country­ level work towards implementation of CRPD. UNDP country offices have also supported a variety of programmes    that    focus    on     PWDs,    including in Albania, Turkey, Cambodia and Yemen.

Not only does UNDP support PWDs as programme participants, it also supports its own staff  who have disabilities. A new initiative is underway to advance the inclusion of PWDs across all UNDP workplaces. I consider myself very fortunate to be part of an organization that is working actively to create a welcoming and accessible environment for all staff.

Following my initial shock entry into the world of disability, I underwent extensive medical investigations, culminating in December 2016 with a diagnosis of a neuro-degenerative condition involving my central nervous system malfunctioning. This type of condition is generally caused by a genetic mutation, so there is no way to treat,cure or reverse this. It will worsen overtime, and I will always be a person with a disability. However, when I look at the challenges faced by other PWDs, I consider  myself  lucky  – I am  in  an  inclusive  and accessible workplace, living in a country where my rights are enshrined in law. I feel that I am at no risk of being left behind – now I am driven to ensure that no other person with a disability is left behind either.


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