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Rights of persons with disabilities must be fully included in the new development framework – UN experts

GENEVA / NEW YORK (20 February 2015) – “One billion people – 15 per cent of the world’s population – are persons with disabilities, and their rights cannot be ignored,” a group of United Nations human rights experts has warned today. Their call comes as the Second Session of International Negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda closes this week in New York.

“No one should be left behind if we want to ensure a fully inclusive society for all,” they said, urging international negotiators and all UN Member States to firmly include the human rights of persons with disabilities in the new development framework.

The 17 new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be adopted in September 2015, will replace and expand the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and will frame agendas and policies for the next 15 years. The Outcome Document of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place in July 2015 in Addis Ababa, is an agreement on policies and financing. It will be key in the implementation of the post-2015 agenda.

“The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the SDGs is fundamental if we are to achieve sustainable development that is genuinely rights-based. This commitment must also be reflected in the Financing for Development Outcome Document,” said the new UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar.

“Whereas people with disabilities were invisible within the MDGs, we have seen promising advances in ensuring that the new development framework is sustainable, inclusive and accessible,” Ms. Devandas Aguilar said.

The expert noted that, “as we enter the critical final stages of negotiations on the new SDGs, it is imperative that we maintain the important achievements already attained and that the global community fulfils its promise to guarantee human rights and development for all on an equal basis, including for persons with disabilities.”

A key issue for many people with disabilities is food security. Worldwide, an estimated 805 million people are chronically undernourished. Since many persons with disabilities live in absolute poverty, these two large populations overlap to a considerable extent, making food security of utmost importance.

“We know that nutrition and disability are closely linked. Both children and adults are often discriminated against, due to social stigma and negative cultural norms,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, said.

States are particularly responsible for making sure that vulnerable and marginalised people, including those with disabilities, are able to access adequate and nutritious food, she said.

“Food must be physically and economically accessible,” Ms Elver added. “To achieve this, States must ensure that a disability perspective is taken fully into account in nutrition policy and programming, maternal and child health policy, and broader health initiatives.”

The new UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, called on Member States to give particular attention to the situation of older persons with disabilities in the current negotiations.

“Although disability should not be associated with ageing, it is frequent in old age and thus requires resources to ensure access to different services, including education, healthcare and social protection and poverty reduction programmes”, she pointed out.

“An age-sensitive approach should be incorporated in the new development framework to enable all persons with disabilities, including older persons, to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms”, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte emphasized.

“The scope of the post-2105 development goals and the Financing for Development Outcome Document provides a unique opportunity to ensure persons with disabilities are not just more visible, but are also active participants in the global agenda, and it is an opportunity that should not be missed,” the three experts concluded.

(*) The experts: Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; and Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.

The 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.

Learn more, log on to:
Persons with disabilities: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/SRDisabilities/Pages/SRDisabilitiesIndex.aspx
Right to food:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/FoodIndex.aspx
Older persons: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/IE/Pages/IEOlderPersons.aspx

For more information and media inquiries, please contact Frederike Jansonius (+41 22 917 9339 / fjansonius@ohchr.org) or Orlagh McCann (+41 22 917 9215 / omccann@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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