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UN expert calls for transformation of support and services for persons with disabilities

13 March 2023

GENEVA (13 March 2023) – Support systems are essential for persons with disabilities to live with dignity, autonomy and independence, a UN expert said today, urging that their voices be included in broader policy approaches to care and services.

In a report to the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn, said there was a need to develop a new philosophy of services and support. "States and societies at large must move away from systems that were historically built to provide a material safety net and relegate persons with disabilities to the margins of society," he said.

Quinn said that personhood and social inclusion should always determine how services and support systems are designed, delivered, and monitored, adding this was the only way to make the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including the right to live independently, a reality.

"We have the means to implement a new philosophy of services in how we shape the market," Quinn said. He stressed that the goal was not to replace public sector with private sector, and argued that when placing focus on markets, they should be designed to achieve optimal social outcomes.

“The business sector can be a positive force for change when actively consulting and partnering with civil society to create products and services that truly advance rights,” the Special Rapporteur said.

At a time of an unprecedented global cost of living crisis, human rights-based support systems and services for people with disabilities must be prioritised to ensure that no one is left behind, the expert said.

“The Sustainable Development Goals summit in September 2023 will provide a significant opportunity for the inclusion and progress in transforming support and service provision away from traditional care models and towards systems based on choice,” Quinn said and pointed that care can only mean an approach that is consistent with individual respect and inclusion.

Echoing the High Commissioner’s remarks on a human rights economy earlier this year, his call complements a new report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on support systems for persons with disabilities.


Gerard Quinn is the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, appointed by the Human Rights Council in October 2020. Mr Quinn holds two research chairs at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute on Human Rights in the University of Lund (Sweden) and Leeds University (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). He was the lead focal point for the global network of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) during the negotiations leading to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was head of delegation for Rehabilitation International during the UN Working Group (2004). He previously held a chair at the National University of Ireland where he founded and directed the Centre on Disability Law and Policy.

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. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

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