This week marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) by the United Nations General Assembly. The Convention has been ratified by 170 countries and established frameworks and reporting requirements to ensure the inclusion of all individuals with disabilities in social, political and economic life. The World Bank estimates that one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability making the Convention a critical accountability tool to ensuring the rights of a huge number of individuals worldwide.
Since the adoption of the Convention and due to the commitment of a huge number of disability advocates around the globe, there have been enormous strides in the advancement of disability rights and inclusion including having disability rights included in the Sustainable Development Goals, movements away from the institutionalisation of those with disabilities and the generation of action plans at the national level in several countries to create concrete strategies for disability inclusion. However, despite these advances, there is much work still to be done.
There are very real battles being fought to ensure adequate access and inclusion across all social situations, particularly legal interventions, health care, education, public transportation and employment and those with disabilities are still extremely vulnerable to poverty, exploitation and marginalisation. Particularly vulnerable are those with disabilities who are caught in the global forced migration crisis, facing the vulnerabilities associated with their migration status compounded with the vulnerabilities of their disability. The UN notes that forced migrants with disabilities are more likely to be ‘sidelined n every aspect of humanitarian assistance due to physical, environmental and societal barriers against accessing information, health and rehabilitation service and human rights protection’.
The anniversary of this groundbreaking tool is an opportunity to evaluate where the global community has succeeded and to celebrate those successes, but it is also an opportunity to review where we have fallen short and to double down on our commitment to ensuring inclusion and equity for those living with disabilities and to seeing those priorities work through national and international policies across the board.