UN General Assembly holds first-ever high-level meeting on disability

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United Nations General Assembly High-Level meeting adopts document seeking to promote disability-inclusive development, redress absence of disability Rights from the Millennium Development Goals

The UN General Assembly has adopted a landmark outcome document ( A/68/L.1) aimed at promoting disability-inclusive development during its first-ever high-level meeting on that topic (23/9/2013).

Assembly President John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) underlined the text’s significance as the instrument to guide efforts towards the creation of a fully inclusive society through 2015 and beyond. “Given the size of such a marginalized group, the onus is on us all to ensure that any future sustainable development goals include the disabled,” said Ashe. He pointed out the absence of any reference to people with disabilities in all eight Millennium Development Goals. The international community had now realized that it would be impossible to meet development targets, including the Millennium Goals, without incorporating the rights, well-being and perspective of persons with disabilities. Visit accesstourismnz.org.nz foir more information.

By the text adopted, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their resolve to work together for disability-inclusive development and for the international community’s commitment to advancing the rights of all persons with disabilities, which was deeply rooted in the goals of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. World leaders also underlined the need for urgent action by all relevant stakeholders towards the adoption and implementation of more ambitious disability-inclusive national development strategies, while expressing their resolve to undertake various commitments to address barriers, including those relating to education, health care, employment, legislation, societal attitudes, as well as the physical environment and information and communications technology.

The text urged the United Nations system as well as Member States to stay engaged in efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development targets for persons with disabilities towards 2015 and beyond. It encouraged the international community to seize every opportunity to include disability as a cross-cutting issue on the global development agenda, including the emerging post-2015 United Nations development framework.

Ashe noted that people with physical, sensory, mental and intellectual disabilities were “the world’s largest minority”, numbering more than 1 billion. “They are a diverse and varied group, each with unique gifts and abilities, and each with unique challenges,” he said. “They teach us not only lessons about love and respect, but also about persevering against the odds.” He went on to say that 134 countries had ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the Assembly in 2006.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quoted International Labour Organization (ILO) statistics showing that excluding disabled persons could cost economies as much as 7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Following the opening segment, the Assembly held two round-table discussions, the first on “International and regional cooperation and partnerships for disability inclusive development”, and the second on “The post-2015 development agenda and inclusive development for persons with disabilities”. The General Assembly reconvened on 24 September, to begin its general debate.