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Armed conflict puts human rights of people with disabilities and all civilians in peril: UN experts

International Day of Persons with Disabilities - 3 December 2023

01 December 2023

GENEVA (1 December 2023) – Many people with disabilities have lost their lives to armed conflict, UN experts* said today, calling for peace at a time when the human rights of persons with disabilities and all civilians are in peril. Ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, they issued the following statement:

“This year, we remember that persons with disabilities are the most and first to be harmed in armed conflicts. Armed conflicts have particularly severe and long-lasting effects on people with disabilities as they result in the destruction of critical infrastructure, support services and networks.

This year we raise the slogan “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with and by persons with disabilities”. Seventy-five years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, armed conflicts remain one of the biggest obstacles to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. Hence, the importance of Goal 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies is clear. This also means that we must include the rights and needs of persons with disabilities in post-conflict reconstruction.

People with disabilities, including persons with albinism and persons affected by leprosy with disabilities related, must have equal opportunities to benefit from Sustainable Development Goals. So far, sustainable development plans have not succeeded in fully including persons with disabilities and they are still “left behind”. Joint work and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities is necessary to ensure the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda effectively addresses concerns of persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities and their rights must also be included in discussions reviewing the progress made in implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda. Following the 2023 SDG Summit and its Political Declaration, a key moment to rethink how the rights of persons with disabilities are effectively mainstreamed is the 2024 Summit for the Future and its outcome document the Pact for the Future, as well as any annexes. This process is presenting States with a crucial opportunity to commit to concrete actions that will make societies more accessible and inclusive.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities contains clear legal obligations that apply to States when implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda. It provides guidance on how to meet the SDGs while mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies to ensure persons with disabilities are not left behind. We call on States to do so in all goals, objectives and indicators when planning the post-2030 development agenda and in accelerating the implementation of the current goals.

Ms. Heba Hagrass Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Ms. Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with Albinism; Ms. Beatriz Miranda Galarza Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and their family members; and Ms. Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Special Rapporteurs 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 capacity.

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