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A successful day for disability at the UN

November 2013
Image of Ketan Kothari

A one-day intersessional meeting took place at the UN HQ on 22 November between Major Groups and Other Stakeholders and the Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The sessions were co-moderated by Co-Chairs of the OWG, Ambassador Korosi of Hungary and Ambassador Muli Grignon of Kenya.

I was fortunate enough to spend quality time with Ketan Kothari from Sightsavers India who travelled all the way to the US to attend this session. Mr. Kothari and I had the honour to speak about disability inclusion and share relevant materials with Ambassador Muli Grignon.

The jam-packed day was broken into four sessions, including: (1) Rights-based SDGs that encompasses all dimensions of Sustainable Development; (2) The SDGs can eliminate inequalities and poverty; (3) Good governance, enabling environment and institutions at the core of implementing SDGs; and (4) Designing SDGs that foster human development within planetary boundaries (including climate change and natural resources management). In addition, there was a special briefing by the Office of the President of the General Assembly on the upcoming events on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The panel presentations did not explicitly address disability themes, but comments emerged from the floor. Mr. Kothari highlighted the lack of attention persons with disabilities receive by highlighting how persons with disabilities were not included in the panel’s discussion on marginalised groups. He recommended that measurable targets and indicators include persons with disabilities so goals can be achieved for all. Later, Mr. Kothari spoke again and inquired how the UN would be able to ensure that checks and balances would be in place for effective implementation at the national level.

Vladimir Cuk, Acting Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance also spoke from the floor and highlighted the Report of the Secretary-General from July 2013 in which Ban Ki-moon states that “Goals and targets should take into account cross-cutting issues such as gender, disability, age and other factors leading to inequality, human rights, demographics, migration and partnerships.” Mr. Cuk continued by stating that persons with disabilities should be included with women and youth when designing new goals and that the disability community does not want a stand-alone goal, but instead a goal covering a cross-cutting issue that is most relevant to persons with disabilities. Mr. Cuk encouraged civil society to mobilize with a shared message to create a proposed set of targets and indicators that would be relevant to cross-cutting issues.

Relevant comments from other stakeholders included: Rosy Pereyra, representing ageing persons, who mentioned that society has to be inclusive for all, including those with all abilities; Golan Kibrea representing Children and Youth Major Groups urged for more focus on youth with disabilities; and the LongHouse Treaty Nations emphasized important questions of interest, one of which was the number of persons with disabilities.

It was a successful day for the inclusion of persons with disabilities at the UN, which was reflected in the closing plenary session in which the rights of persons with disabilities was included in the summary of lessons learned from the day and of important aspects to include in the upcoming OWG sessions on the SDGs.

*Source CBM

About Sightsavers

Sightsavers is a global development organisation working in India since 1966 to eliminate avoidable blindness and to ensure that people who are irreversibly blind are supported adequately to lead lives of independence and dignity.

Today, we work with partner organisations across major states in India bringing eye healthcare, educational support, training and leadership development to visually impaired people in some of the least served areas.

We work sustainably for lasting change – by strengthening existing health systems, seeking to advocate with governments and by demonstrating best practises. We network with like-minded organisations to advocate for the rights of the disabled.

Sightsavers believes in promoting indigenous technologies in eye healthcare to ensure a wider reach. Log on to

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