- October 11, 2023

“We are a community on the frontline but (left) on the sidelines.”

On September 16, 2023, on the SDG Mobilization Day under the SDG Action Weekend ahead of the SDG Summit 2023, a side event was organized at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York with an aim to put disability rights at the heart of the acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This side-event titled ‘Together towards a disability-iclusive future: From the SDG Summit to Beyond 2030’ was organized by the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities (SGPwD) and the International Disability Alliance, (IDA) in partnership with the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN, the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the UN, the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN, UNICEF, UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC); and supported by the Women’s Major Group and Major Group on Children and Youth.

The side-event opened with welcome remarks from Dr. Ruth Warick, First Vice-Chair of IDA, who also introduced the purpose of bringing multi-stakeholder participation through the side-event and highlighted the concerns of persons with disabilities being left behind, especially given that the COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact of their lives.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmad Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of Qatar to the UN reiterated her country’s commitment to ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are deeply embedded in their policies. “We are deeply concerned about children with disabilities in emergency situations,” she added.

"One can see the history of the rights of persons with disabilities in Guatemala through the lens of a post-conflict society, and we are proud of the progress made in the inclusion of persons with disabilities,” said Ambassador Carla Maria Rodriguez Mancia, Permanent Representative of Guatemala to the UN. “Since 2021, we have been carrying out consultations with civil society to address the rights of indigenous people with disabilities, “she further added.

“Activism is at the heart of the disability inclusion agenda and is clearly an important part. The SDG Agenda is our agenda, and we have next year’s Summit for the Future to look towards,” said Guy Ryder, Under-Secretary-General – Policy at the UN. He also urged caution to not give up on the SDGs yet as we still have seven more years. This feeling was echoed by Marc Workman, CEO of the World Blind Union in his remarks. “There are over 2,000 days until the expiration of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. So, let’s all partner together to get the SDGs back on track,” he stated.

"In achieving the SDGs, we need to start with ourselves; we have to make sure we have the right people in the room; we have to raise the capacity of our staff; we have to be clear in terms of the resources we have in place. We must also focus on localization," reacted Christian Rogg, Director of Development and Open Societies at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.                                      

Jose Viera, Director of Advocacy at IDA began the moderated part of the discussions that focused on how despite some progress on disability inclusion within the SDGs, we are yet to see more with regards to financing for development, access to health employment and inclusive education for persons with disabilities. Gopal Mitra, Global Lead on Disability at UNICEF shared, “We made good progress through the SDGs but the multiple crises that the world is facing are reversing many of those hard-earned gains. At UNICEF, we adopted our first development inclusion strategy that we will scale up by 2030." 

"Due to limited financial resources, we can't meet the support needed at the country level and many mainstreaming projects are being missed. SDGs will not be achieved without the active role of persons with disabilities,” added Fred Smith from the UNPRPD Technical Secretariat.

The side event hosted three youth speakers, two of them persons with disabilities, who shone a light on the intersection of disability, gender, and emerging issues like climate action and technology. 

“My ask to the world leaders is to take concrete actions so that the issues that we face are considered. I urge all actors to consult youth with disabilities in all our diversities” recommended Nayem Molla, IDA AT Fellow from Bangladesh. 

Daphne Friars representing the Major Group for Children and Youth added, “There is no justice without disability justice. Persons with disabilities live at the intersection of oppression and injustice. We are the most impacted by all crises and we can feel invisible. We are a community on the frontline but left on the sidelines.”

"Women continue to face barriers due to unequal power dynamics among stakeholders, thus hindering progress" added Ayshka Najib from the UAE, speaking on behalf of the Women’s Major Group.

Dr. Elizabeth Lockwood of IDDC and the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities in her closing remarks reiterated the role of data, especially citizen-driven data in localization. She also referred to the Promise in Peril campaign by IDDC member Sightsavers that have worked at the national and grassroots level to generate awareness and raise demands for a disability-inclusive acceleration of the SDGs. The campaign has been supported by almost 50,000 people from 121 countries. At the end of the side event, IDA and IDDC shared the release of a Call to Action for stakeholders to work on a more-oriented sustainable development agenda.


Click here to read the Call to Action from Commitments to Action Now: Together towards a disability-inclusive future.

Click here to read the submission of the SGPwD during the negotiations of the Political Declaration.

Click here to read the concept note of the side event.

Click here to read the speaker profiles.

Click here for more information on the SDG Summit.

Additional resources:

Transforming Education Summit Call to Action on Disability Inclusive Education

Sightsavers Equal World Campaign

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