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Important Notice: As of 1 November 2023, Ms. Heba Hagrass (Egypt) has been appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the current Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. This site now serves as an archive of the work and contributions of Mr. Gerard Quinn during his tenure. For the latest updates and official communications from the Special Rapporteur, please visit the UN Special Rapporteurs Page.

The CRPD and Climate Action.

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The UN treaty on the rights of people with disabilities gives us key departure points to ensure that climate action, climate justice and adaptation both responds to our needs and also values our voice in framing solutions.

Article 43 calls for mainstreaming, meaning climate action is incomplete and inefficient without actively taking into account persons with disabilities.

Article 5 advances a theory of inclusive equality. It’s not enough to ensure equal treatment in the abstract; account must be taken of the actual situations of vulnerability persons with disabilities find themselves in, and to respond accordingly.

Article 11 focuses attention on situations of risk including humanitarian emergencies. And of course, Article 32 seeks to harness international cooperation and development assistance in support of national efforts. It’s abundantly clear that this is needed to assist those countries that have not benefitted in the past from a carbon-based economy, and who are now paying the climate price for the world’s addiction to fossil fuels.

Indeed, I would add my voice to those calling for climate justice or moral reparations. Particularly for those countries whose commodities have been exploited to benefit high carbon economies, and who have seen little benefit—if any—in return.

The UN Disability treaty is rightly famous for substantive advances in fields like education and employment. But to my mind, it is equally famous for its innovative advances in process. I can’t stress enough the role of the voices of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all climate related processes.

I know we’re all at the beginning of a journey to save our planet, and hopefully build a better, non-carbon future. Persons with disabilities have been left out of similar major transitions in the past. If we have learned anything it is that all voices count. If not, then the furthes left behind will have no chance this time around to catch up.