Promoting disability inclusion at the UN

This was an incredibly busy week at the UN. The 8th and final Open Working Group session (OWG) took place from 3-7 February. The themes covered included: Oceans and seas, Forests, biodiversity, Promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment, Conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and the promotion of durable peace, Rule of law and governance. CBM and partners were primarily involved in promoting equality on 5 and 6 February. Disability was highlighted throughout the week in various venues.

On 4 February, the high-level side event “Addressing inequalities in the SDGs: A human rights imperative for effective poverty eradication” addressed disability multiple times as a key area in need of focus. Moderator Mr. Craig Mokhiber, Chief, Development and Social and Economic Issues Branch, OHCHR included disability in his opening summary and throughout the event. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN cited examples of effective poverty eradication programs in Brazil, which included social inclusion programs for persons with disabilities.

Highlights from the OWG theme over Promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment on 5 and 6 February are below.

The true highlight was the presentation by Yannis Vardakastanis, Chair of International Disability Alliance (IDA) and President of the European Disability Forum in which he passionately spoke of persons with disabilities and the need for their inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mr. Vardakastanis was the final speaker and ended the session with a bang. Watch his presentation at 2:46

Lenin Moreno, newly appointed Secretary-General Special Envoy of Disability and Accessibility and former Vice President of Ecuador was a distinguished panellist on 5 February. He eloquently and charismatically spoke on behalf of persons with disabilities and provided a real-life example to Member States of the true importance of the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Moreno passionately explained how persons with disabilities are truly ”the forgotten among the forgotten, the marginalized among the marginalized, excluded among the excluded, the left behind among those left behind.” You can watch his entire panel presentation, which I highly recommend at 19:00

alt="Lenin Moreno speaking at the Open Working Group session 8"

Following, Mr. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya and OWG Co-Chair reiterated that there are a billion persons with disabilities and strongly complimented Lenin Moreno’s presentation. In addition, numerous Member States included persons with disabilities in their statements as indicated below.

Bolivia strongly supported persons with disabilities as part of a human rights dimension.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) mentioned women, persons with disabilities, and indigenous persons in its intervention.

The African Group explicitly supported persons with disabilities in their intervention.

The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia pushed for the “leave no one behind” framework including disability. In addition, they stated that people with disabilities have poorer health rates, lower education levels, and higher poverty levels.

Croatia and Bulgaria also quoted directly from the Report of the Secretary-General, which included disability.

Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka added at the end of their statement that they wanted to specifically address the inclusion of persons with disabilities because they have poorer health rates, lower economic achievements and higher rates of poverty than persons without disabilities. They recommended that the SDGs holistically address the concerns of persons with disabilities across various goals. This inclusion was a last-minute amendment from the direct result of our lobbying efforts with the Pakistan Mission!

Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador emphasised the inclusion of persons with disabilities and wanted to specifically address invisible groups, including persons with disabilities. Accessibility for persons with disabilities in the areas of health care, employment, and education.

Switzerland mentioned disability twice as a group that encounters inequality and needs attention in the SDGs.

Nicaragua and Brazil kicked off their statement by applauding Lenin Moreno’s panel presentation and his focus on disability and accessibility.

Egypt explained that persons with disabilities are in their constitution and stressed the importance of persons with disabilities to be included in all aspects of life. This inclusion was also a direct result of Maryanne Diamond (IDA) and my meeting with the Egyptian Mission!

The Republic of Korea strongly and explicitly advocated for persons with disabilities and advocated that disability needs to be explicitly included in the SDGs as a crosscutting issue in the targets and indicators. They expressed that there are one billion persons with disabilities who comprise 15 per cent of the world’s population. Immediately following, Mr. Csaba Kőrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary and Co-Chair of the OWG agreed with the importance of the inclusion of persons with disabilities and stressed that one day we all will belong to the disability group, we just don’t know when. He repeated this message in our meeting with him the following day.

Japan also included persons with disabilities as an issue of inequality to address and include in the SDGs.

Poland and Romania also pushed for the inclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups that included persons with disabilities. Dziękuję!

In a long and passionate speech, Cuba supported the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the SDGs.

Israel and the United States emphasised the need for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the SDGs and also advocated for inclusive education for all. In addition, they highly encouraged including disability status in disaggregated data, which is fantastic!

Palau supported statements by the Republic of Korea, Israel, and the United States in regards to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the SDGs.


“Those of us with disabilities have a fundamental role to play in the diverse society that is developing.” – Lenin Moreno, Secretary-General Special Envoy of Disability and Accessibility


Read CBM’s policy brief on Gender equality and women’s empowerment: women and girls with disabilities Thank you Charlotte and Mary!