Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, persons with disabilities were subject to marginalisation -- more likely to live in poverty and experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse. The COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded this situation with millions of people losing their jobs and livelihoods, sometimes overnight. Indeed, many persons with disabilities have specific underlying conditions that make the disease more dangerous for them. For certain groups like women and girls with disabilities, their vulnerability to gender-based violence is even greater.
As some countries start to slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, a key objective must be to shape a more inclusive and accessible world that recognises the contributions of all people, including persons with disabilities. Crucially, people with disabilities must be able to take a lead role in global efforts to build forward better from the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations (UN) is aiming to lead by example. Guided by its Disability Inclusion Strategy, the UN is driving progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of its work: peace and security, human rights, and development. Look, for instance, to Nepal where the UN has worked to strengthen capacities on gender-responsive and disability-inclusive governance processes for 84 disability organisations, 72 women elected representatives and 114 community leaders from women’s organisations. And a new UNDP publication, directly informed by persons with disabilities from countries like Mexico and Malawi, aims to advance the political participation of persons with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Promoting the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities will also be critical so that they can take a more prominent role in designing much-needed development solutions. It will also help to ensure that they have a say in critical areas like climate action. Yet persons with disabilities face barriers in accessing the internet and assistive technology -- including affordability obstacles due to lower incomes and expenses related to their disability. Therefore, the UN is driving forward wide-ranging efforts to extend affordable broadband and equip people with the digital skills they need. Notably, just two per cent of the 350 million active websites have some degree of accessibility compliance. Yet there are many emerging technological solutions. Look, for instance, to Artificial Intelligence, which can update millions of websites automatically -- making a difference in the lives of millions of people by boosting inclusion.
Guided by our new Strategic Plan 2022-2025, UNDP will continue to advance disability inclusion across all aspects of our programming and operations in support of the 2030 Agenda. Consider, for instance, the UNDP-UN Volunteers Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities which can inspire similar programmes both in the UN system and beyond. To build forward better from this pandemic, people with disabilities must now be afforded an equitable place at decision-making tables -- making the choices that will affect their daily lives towards that more inclusive, accessible world. As ever, the entire UN family will be on hand to help ensure that the 15 per cent of the world with disabilities have an equal say in their future.
Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
In 2021, the theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”. UNDP hosts the secretariat of the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which brings together UN entities, governments, and organisations that advance the rights of persons with disabilities.