RI Global From the Field: International Day of Disabilities 2016 — SDGs and Inclusion of PwDs

7 December 2016

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RI Global: Office of Communications

Contact: Adrian Brune, +1 347-759-9501

Although the decade since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — one of the most widely-ratified human rights treaties in UN history — has brought sweeping changes, disabled speakers on 2 December told the General Assembly that discrimination around the globe remained pervasive for persons with disabilities (PwDs) and the playing field uneven.

On the annual International Day of People with Disabilities, many advocates stressed the need to view the rights of PwDs in the context of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledged to “leave no one behind”. Among others, Rehabilitation International (RI Global) Secretary-General Venus Ilagan called for renewed efforts to turn commitments into tangible action and remove barriers for the disabled.


“After the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, we note that there continues to be little resources allocated by some governments to address the profound social, cultural and economic disadvantages experienced by people with disabilities,” Ilagan testified in front of a packed conference room, whose guests that day included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Stevie Wonder, the internationally renowned blind musician and UN Messenger of Peace.


“We also note with concern the lack of involvement or consultation with people with disabilities on matters that affect their lives and that of their families – it is time we realize that disability does not impede development. Rather, it can energize development. Persons with disabilities – one billion of us – are a resource just waiting to be tapped for our contribution in realizing the shared goal for sustainable development.”

Ilagan also brought to the attention of the General Assembly the situation of PwDs in emergencies and crisis situations, particularly women and girls with disabilities. Eight million or more of the world’s estimated 51 million people displaced by conflicts have disabilities – the single largest sub-group of people who suffer the most in view of not being able to access services due to both physical and social barriers including negative attitudes and biases.

Panellist Fatoumata Ndaiye, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that the UN system had acted far too late and done very little in realizing the rights of PwDs. “Today must be a day when we commit to narrowing the gap between our words and our actions,” she said.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon concurred. “In the past decade we have seen much progress, but persons with disabilities continue to face grave disadvantages,”, noting that children with disabilities were less likely to start or complete school and adults with disabilities were less likely to have employment.

“We must eliminate the stereotypes and discrimination that perpetuate their exclusion and build an accessible, enabling and inclusive environment for all.  For the 2030 Agenda to succeed, we must include persons with disabilities in implementation and monitoring and use the Convention as a guide.”


The International Day of Persons with Disabilities also included much celebration in the milestones reached, however. That afternoon, the Institute on Disability and Public Policy at American University launched an iOS 10 mobile application on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the CRPD. This first mobile app of its kind, the app aims to raise awareness of this critical disability policy framework, through a listing of the articles of the CRPD, as well as indices of countries that have signed and ratified the Convention.

Throughout the day, the Heidi Latsky Dance Company staged a “living gallery” of 20-30 different bodies moving as reverent sculptures in the space. Similar installations took place simultaneously around the world and were also showcased at the UN.


The IDPD capped off with the Accessible Cities for All ceremony, during which – interspersed between creative performances promoting the international normative framework on disability – distinguished guests highlighted examples of partnerships and best practices for ensuring urban accessibility and sustainability. The event brought, among other things, a performance by the Special Olympics Korea Ensemble, followed by a statement and appearance by violinist Midori, a UN Messenger of Peace.


RI Global: Founded in 1922, Rehabilitation International (RI Global) is a worldwide network promoting the rights and inclusions of persons with disabilities (PwDs) through advocacy, habilitation and rehabilitation to achieve an inclusive world in which all people can enjoy full human rights.

Join us at the 2016 RI Global World Congress: riworldcongress.com

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