Building back better: People with disabilities have vital role - International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December 2020)

GENEVA (1 December 2020) – As the world looks beyond COVID-19, UN human rights experts have urged States to ensure that people with disabilities are fully included in the "building back better" process. To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December 2020), they issue the following remarks:

Danlami Basharu, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the precarious nature of the gains made in the past two decades by and for persons with disabilities. States must work to mitigate its immediate and short-term effects and also plan better for future crises to make sure that no one is left behind in reality.

One obvious learning from the past few months is the conspicuous lack of consultation with people with disabilities, their representative organisations and human rights defenders with disabilities, in shaping the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Problems that were wholly predictable were missed and this negatively affected both the legitimacy of immediate responses and their effectiveness."

Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities:

"The COVID-19 pandemic highlights that protection, response and recovery efforts will not be effective unless everyone is equally valued and included. Only through the adoption of a human rights approach will we achieve equitable, sustainable and resilient societies. This includes, among others, the recognition of education as an essential element to empower persons with disabilities and to integrate them into their communities socially and politically.

Innovation is needed to replace fragile support systems with an assurance of continuity during crises. The future cannot be like the past, and that is what 'building back better' should be all about."

María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility:

"Another obvious learning has to do with improving the accessibility and availability of relevant information and communications to those most at risk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also experienced the extreme fragility of support systems for persons with disabilities, as well as other community support services. The multidimensional poverty and marginalization caused was obvious: extreme isolation, lack of access to basic services, including food and medicine, an enhanced risk of violence against women and girls with disabilities in the home, and even homelessness. It had a disproportionate impact on women and girls with disabilities and on older persons with disabilities."

These remarks are endorsed by: Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Thomas Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment; Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Meskerem Geset Techane, Ivana RadačIć, Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia; Ikponwosa Ero, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders; Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Claudia Mahler,Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Tlaleng Mofokeng,Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Marcos Orellana, Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children; Alioune Tine, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Mali, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.


Mr. Gerard Quinn, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, is 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. 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.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which to date has 182 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Committee's concluding observations are an independent assessment of States' compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty.

Ms. María Soledad Cisternas Reyes is theSpecial Envoy of the Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility. The role of the Special Envoy is to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and universal accessibility.


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