Today, the world population is over eight billion people, and more than one billion people, or approximately 15 percent of the world's population, live with some form of disability; 80 percent live in developing countries. - United Nations

Kathy Bates

The UN building with several nations' flags flying outside.

The United Nations is the one place where the world's nations can gather together, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions. As the largest minority in the world, the disability community has been the poorest and most disadvantaged. This is why the UN has worked for decades to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the first International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day is celebrated every year on the third of December, to bring awareness and understanding of the issues that people with disabilities face around the world. It promotes the dignity and rights of everyone, with the goal of inclusion in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. The 2023 theme for the International Day is "United in action to rescue and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for, with and by persons with disabilities."

In this blog post, I will discuss two very important initiatives of the United Nations, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)  and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a United Nations international human rights treaty, designed to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. It was adopted on September 13, 2006, and opened for signature in March of 2007.  It was modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, our civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. The Disability Treaty has 50 different articles. 8 guiding principles were considered during its creation.

These are:

  1. Respect for inherent dignity, freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence.
  2. Non-discrimination.
  3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society.
  4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity.
  5. Equality of opportunity.
  6. Accessibility.
  7. Equality between men and women.
  8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and the preservation of their identities.

The Disability Treaty is working on changing the perception of people with disabilities from being objects of charity who need medical treatment and social protection to people with rights who are capable of making their own decisions based on their informed consent.  It was negotiated during eight sessions of an Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly from 2002 to 2006, making it the fastest-negotiated human rights treaty.

What is the 2030 agenda for Sustainable* Development (SDGs)?

The plan adopted by the United Nations Member States in 2015 calls for urgent action for all countries in a global partnership. They recognize solving the world’s biggest problems such as poverty and food insecurity can only be realized by improving health and education, reducing inequality, and increasing economic growth. Tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests must also be addressed.  There are 17 goals explained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

These are:

  1. No Poverty - end poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. Zero Hunger - achieve food security and improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture.
  3. Good Health and well-being - ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for everyone at all ages.
  4. Quality Education - ensure equal and inclusive quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  5. Gender Equality - achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation - ensure the availability of clean water for all.
  7. Affordable Clean Energy - ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.
  8. Work and Economic Growth - promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and productive employment for all.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - Build reliable infrastructure (e.g., bridges, buildings, and roads), promote the use of inclusive technology, and support new ideas.
  10. Reduced Inequalities - Decrease inequality within and among countries.
  11. Inclusive and safe cities and towns -Make cities, towns, and villages inclusive, safe, and sustainable.
  12. Responsible production and consumption - Ensure sustainable production of food without wasting resources.
  13. Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
  14. Protect Life Below Water - Conserve and use the oceans, seas, and marine resources wisely for sustainable development.
  15. Protect Life on Land -  Restore, and promote sustainable use of the environment, and manage forests by planting trees.
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies – provide access to justice systems for everyone at all levels.
  17. Strengthen international partnerships for sustainable development.         

The needs of disabled people were not considered In the 2000-2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This means they were often excluded from many development programs and resources. The 2030 Agenda includes persons with disabilities.  However, it is not a legally binding document. Therefore, each country’s approach to these issues and solving the problems outlined in the goals will look different because they have varying resources and views.

These are universal issues that are cross-cutting in both the CRPD and the 2030 Agenda. The goals might seem too big to accomplish, but all Member States of the UN have agreed to them.  Although not all countries can come to an agreement on the CRPD, the two initiatives are connected to improving the quality of life for the global disability community. It will take collaboration and innovation from people across the world to achieve these goals for a brighter future.

* Sustainable means capable of being renewed or continued at a certain level.

From Where I Sit…

When most of us think about our community, we are thinking about our own neighborhoods, but the truth is, we probably belong to several different communities. For example, I am part of the disabled community. I live in the city of Somersworth. I am also part of the UNH community. I live in the United States, and we all need to remember we are part of the global community.

Issues such as global warming, natural disasters, poverty, basic human rights for everyone, and conflicts in other countries all matter to me. We are halfway through the timeline for the goals for the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development and I am not sure if we are going to achieve them, but I am sure everyone can do something. It doesn’t matter if you take action to help someone in your own community or halfway around the world, it is the action that matters. During this holiday season, find at least one small thing you can do to help; you might just be surprised how much of a difference you can make.   

How to achieve Sustainable Development Goals - The Global Goals