Leave no persons behind, with or without disabilities

10 Jul 2017

 China Disability and Sustainable Development Forum

Last week I spoke at a symposium on the rights and entitlements of persons with disabilities in China, organized by UN agencies and the China Disabled Persons Federation (CPDF).

The World Report on Disability estimates that there are 1 billion people living with a disability, 15% of the global population. Together with UN agencies, the China Disabled Person Federation (CPDF) we discussed how to mainstream the rights of 85 million men and women with disabilities in China in sustainable development.

With growing inequality in the world, as Oxfam reported in January that just 8 men own same wealth as half the world, often the people with disabilities are the most vulnerable. 

11 years ago, the world adopted the groundbreaking Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and then in 2015 agreed on a set of common goals, the Sustainable Development Goals. This new global agenda emphasizes “leaving no one behind" and should be used to move forward the progress needed for the people with disabilities.

As UNDP we took a look at the economic and legal aspects of disability. Often families with members living with a disability have a lot of extra expenditures for care and less access to opportunities that can lead to economic empowerment, therefore at risk to slip into or stay in poverty. Following the government’s call for “precise” poverty reduction, more targeted interventions that place the needs of persons with disabilities at center should be dedicated to these households.

Also related to access to legal services, while in theory the legal aid services put persons with disabilities as one of the main target groups, in practice persons with disabilities are often the least likely to receive and benefit from these services, compared to all the other vulnerable groups targeted.

Partnering with Wuhan University and local Disabled Persons’ Federation, UNDP looked at the access to justice for persons with disabilities, from both the demand and supply perspectives. Our report suggests that a key barrier to disabled persons’ access to justice is the lack of awareness of their rights, by both the legal professionals and the persons with disabilities themselves. Disability is still largely considered a “medical” issue rather than a “social” issue, in other words persons with disabilities are more seen as “patients” rather than “rights-holders”.

For more information, see the report: http://www.cn.undp.org/content/china/en/home/library/democratic_governance/equal-access-to-justice-for-persons-with-disabilities-in-china.html  

As UNDP we started to work with the private sector to leverage the power of business and shift the narrative from "doing charity" to regarding persons with disabilities as valuable customers, consumers, employees and stakeholders. Currently we are piloting this work with Didi and hopefully we as the UN can get more companies interested in joining this movement.

Out of the many targets (169 targets), seven explicitly mention disability and an additional six targets refer to persons in vulnerable situations. The goals should be measured and these targets can help to build evidence in the areas of poverty alleviation, inclusive education and access to justice for people living with disabilities. 

Besides the important work done on disability, this project was also an initiative where the UN together showed its added value - UNESCO focusing on education, media and information accessibility, ILO on employment, while UNICEF focused on social welfare for children with disabilities. Great partnership with all UN entities rowing in the same direction.

Exciting afternoon where I learned a lot, if you want to know more about the topic, do read the report which was published last year, and do remember that we are all together living on one planet and we should not leave anybody behind.

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