Skip to Main Content
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.

Why this work is important

Why this work is important:

The UNCRPD was adopted in 2006, and since then, it has been endorsed by more than 190 countries. Many of those countries have been making changes and adjustments to their policies, laws and social practices, to comply with the new treaty.

Significant progress has been made. But hundreds of millions of people with disabilities around the world remain poorer and more marginalized than any other human group. Adopting the UNCRPD was an important accomplishment, but it was only the beginning of the work to realize those rights. For this to happen, new ways of collaboration are still needed, to ensure that people with disabilities are fully involved in producing the policies and practices that affect their lives, and in the national and international mechanisms where results are measured, data is collected and funding commitments are adopted.

The key challenges of persons with disabilities

At the start of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur presented a document to the UN Human Rights Council, in which he explains his vision to promote participatory ways to produce policies, as well as the main global threats and challenges facing people with disabilities. These include:

A resurgence of armed conflicts around the world. People with disabilities are among the most vulnerable groups during armed conflicts. They often find themselves left behind, unable to receive the assistance they need to survive. Existing rules and protections governing the conduct of hostilities must be enhanced to protect them.

The historic adoption in 2019 by the Security Council of its resolution 2475 on the protection of persons with disabilities in armed conflict created an opportunity to review humanitarian and broad protection issues. The momentum must now be seized to translate the entailments of that resolution into international humanitarian law.

Extreme poverty affects persons with disabilities more than any other group.  Over-representation of persons with disabilities among the poorest and most vulnerable of every community is well documented. Causes can be traced to discrimination and stigma affecting people because of their disabilities and other identity aspects—gender, ethnic, socioeconomic—and to systems of support that exclude people with disabilities from their communities. Dismantling the poverty traps require identifying where and how discrimination occurs, and reimagining services in ways that promote inclusion.

Exclusion in employment and economic activity is another major obstacle for inclusion. Urgent action is needed in labor and recruitment practices relying on Artificial Intelligence, to prevent a future where access to employment and essential services become plagued with forms of discrimination that make accountability almost impossible.

COVID-19 emergency responses highlighted the invisibility of persons with disabilities in humanitarian emergency planning. Shortages of food and basic support systems, and discriminatory triage guidelines rationing medical services had catastrophic consequences for people with disabilities. Covid fatalities were particularly high for those living in institutions, where the virus spread uncontrollably.

The Special Rapporteur’s work aims at articulating what building back better means in recovery programmes as they touch on persons with disabilities, ensuring that health services do not discriminate against them, and redoubling the work to getting persons with disabilities out of institutions and into the community, with the support they need.

Climate change is exceptionally harmful to all of biodiversity. Its impact on humankind is felt more intensely by groups affected by poverty and discrimination. However, they are largely absent in the processes to produce measures for climate adaptation. Many of the risks caused by climate are predictable, and avoidable, if persons with disabilities and their representative organizations can become part of the solution that States are building through their climate mitigation and adaption measures.