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.