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Closing remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities at the interactive dialogue on the Implementation of the Convention of States Parties with the United Nations system and other stakeholders

New York, 17 June 2021

Thank you ambassador, 
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates and participants,
 

I would like to begin by thanking the Bureau for the invitation to participate in this interactive dialogue.

When I presented my first vision statement and work programme at the March 2021 session of the UN Human Rights Council, I laid out a theory of change – emphasising that a jump spark was needed between the high aspirations of the CRPD and the UN SDGs and peoples’ lives in all corners of the world. 

The interactive dialogue at the Conference of States Parties gives us a vital space within which to reflect on whether the bridges we are building between the majestic generalities of the CRPD and the lived experiences of persons with disabilities are as good as they can be. 

These annual reflections at UN COSP are more crucial than ever as the world prepares for a post COVID-19 recovery.  It is imperative that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and that the ambition to ‘build back better’ means rejecting segregation, exclusion and the relative invisibility of persons with disabilities.

And of course, placing the voices of persons with disabilities at the heart of recovery efforts is not just something that enhances the legitimacy of our actions – it also is something that underpins the efficiency of change.

As you know, my mandate actively supported and contributed to the process leading up to the adoption of the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS). It is highly encouraging to see that UNDIS is being implemented.

om my side, and with a particular interest in the potential of inclusive public procurement policies in the UN system, I look to supporting UNDIS in its next phase of implementation. 

Chair,

I have decided to focus my first thematic report on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of armed conflicts.

This is literally about life and death.  The UN CRPD built a bridge to international humanitarian law. The UN Security Council Resolution two years ago [res. 2475] gave us a roadmap.  But now we need to take the next steps to particularize where change is needed.  I am glad to see such an emphasis on the topic during many sessions and side-panels at this years’ COSP.

Framing is important. And I propose broadening the traditional frame by also looking at the positive contribution of persons with disabilities to peacebuilding processes. I look forward to finalizing this first thematic report and thank all those States and others who have contributed so far.

My theory of change also sought to place disability in the context of broader changes happening in our societies.  It often seems the terms of our very co-existence is being re-set by Artificial Intelligence – with many risks as well as possibilities for persons with disabilities. 

That is why my second thematic topic will focus on artificial intelligence and disability.  Even when we purge ourselves of ableism, it seems that machine learning and their associated algorithms can encode ableism even deeper.  If we allow this to happen, then the furthest left behind will be left even further behind – and this time with no means to catch up. 

I am planning follow-up thematic reports on the transformation of service paradigms which is needed to give life to community living – and is now eminently possible.  This transformation of services is also relevant to the trend toward non-coercive approaches to mental health and I applaud the recent work of the WHO on this topic. 

This will be perhaps followed by a thematic focus on indigenous persons with disability – which speaks directly to an intersectional framing on disability.

I also propose undertaking a country visit to Botswana this year, which had to be postponed last year due to the pandemic.  I thank Botswana for its constructive cooperation. I wish to thank all those Governments that have extended an invitation to my mandate and look forward to a constructive and positive engagement.

I said in my Vision Statement and Work Programme that I will particularly support the development of research capacity in university and similar bodies to support change. This goes to the eco-system of change and supports advocacy in civil society as well as expanding policy options for Governments.  I am glad to report that that work has been particularly intensive in every corner of the world in the last few months.  This is in addition to many other engagements including conferences and meeting with Government.

Chair, 

If I may be permitted to look forward, I am greatly looking forward to the second Global Summit on disability to be co-organised by the Norwegian Government and IDA in early 2022.  What a unique opportunity to build on the outstanding success of the London Summit and bring together a range of Governments, donors and foundations to invest in new beginnings. 

At the opening of COSP I said, not one more penny should be spent on institutions.  Maybe the Norwegian summit will show how the right kinds of investments by a diversity of actors can finally make community living a reality for all.  Re-designing services will be key.

I wish to conclude by reiterating my strong commitment to continuing and strengthening efforts towards making the United Nations system a strong actor in disability inclusion.

Thank You.