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UN Expert Claims After a Decade Disability Rights Still Lagging

  • Published: 2016-12-19 (Revised/Updated 2018-02-28) : *Press Release: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) : Contact:
  • Synopsis: States must urgently step up their work to ensure that persons with disabilities can take their place as equal members of society - United Nations human rights expert.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 10th anniversary...

States must urgently step up their work to ensure that persons with disabilities can take their place as equal members of society, a United Nations human rights expert has warned in a statement* marking the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A decade after the Convention was adopted, some of the most basic issues have not been addressed, and many persons with disabilities remain marginalized and excluded, according to Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

In a strongly-worded statement, Ms. Devandas Aguilar says overall progress is "only peripheral" and urgent action is needed to deliver full rights to the global population of almost one billion adults and at least 93 million children with disabilities in the world.

"Thanks to the Convention, every one of them can claim rights that relate to every single area of their lives. It is now vital to ensure that this translates into significant improvements and tangible changes in their lives," the Special Rapporteur noted.

She said the systems in many countries were falling short or responding inadequately to the challenge of turning the Convention into daily reality.

"Many States have declared their desire to protect persons with disabilities through public policies and social protection systems," Ms. Devandas Aguilar said. "But all too often, these same systems promote exclusion and limited participation, for example by institutionalization or social benefits that discourage people joining the open labour market.

"States continue to say they are committed to recognizing persons with disabilities as equal rights holders, but deny them the exercise of legal capacity and freedom of making their own decisions," she warned.

Ms. Devandas Aguilar hailed progress including new laws, policies and programmes in some States, and the placing of disability issues at the heart of international processes including the new Sustainable Development Goals.

But she said many States simply did not understand the advanced model of human rights and disability set out in the Convention.

"They may have decided in principle to act, but still struggle with issues as basic as inclusion, non-discrimination, reasonable accommodation and support services," the UN Special Rapporteur said.

Ms. Devandas Aguilar's statement has been endorsed by the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ms. Ikponwosa Ero; the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Mr. Dainius Pûras; and the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.

(*) Read the full statement:

Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar (Costa Rica) was designated as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in June 2014 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Devandas Aguilar has worked extensively on disability issues at the national, regional and international level with the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, the UN unit responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Bank. Her work has focused on the rights of women with disabilities and the rights of indigenous peoples with disabilities. Learn more, log on to:

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

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