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Combating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities

Over 650 million people around the world live with disabilities. In every region of the world, in every country, persons with disabilities often live on the margins of society, deprived of some of life’s fundamental experiences. They have little hope of going to school, getting a job, having their own home, creating a family and raising their children, socializing or voting. Persons with disabilities make up the world’s largest and most disadvantaged minority. The numbers, according to the UN handbook “From Exclusion to Equality: Realizing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, are damning: 20% of the world’s poorest people are with disabilities, 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school, around a third of the world’s street children live with disabilities, and the literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3%, and 1% for women with disabilities in some countries.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the International Community’s response to the long history of discrimination, exclusion and dehumanization of persons with disabilities. A record number of countries have signed the Convention and its Protocol, both of which were adopted on 13 December 2006 and entered into force in May 2008.

Activities of the UN human rights office

  • Raises awareness, understanding and recognition of disability as a human rights issue.

  • Encourages States and regional integration organizations to become party and implement the Convention.

  • Supports the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as the independent body mandated to monitor the implementation of the Convention.

  • Encourages and supports the human rights system in its entirety to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities in its work, in line with the Convention.

  • Promotes the coordinated action of the United Nations mechanisms in support of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

  • Through its Disability Unit, furthers the struggle against such discrimination by building national capacity through advisory services, conducting research and analysis, servicing intergovernmental and expert mechanisms. It also engages with the wider community to forge partnerships, raise awareness and mobilize support for anti-discrimination measures such as legislation, policies and programmes.