Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
3 December 2018
Every year, as we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we stand together to tackle discrimination against the more than one billion people worldwide who live with some form of disability. It is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to work for their inclusion and empowerment through education, the sciences, culture and communication and information.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to “leave no one behind” – because development will not be sustainable if it is not based on human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. To build more resilient societies, we must place the rights of persons with disabilities at the heart of our efforts, to enable every woman and man to make the most of the opportunities for personal fulfilment.
The growing number of Member States that have ratified the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – 177 in total – indicates a paradigm shift in the way we address the issue of disability. Yet, persons with disabilities continue to face discrimination, violence, stigma, and exclusion.
Innovative solutions in all societal domains are urgently needed to address the extreme vulnerability experienced by persons with disabilities. We must integrate persons with disabilities into all decision-making and policies. This means encouraging their participation in political, social and cultural life to build a world that is pluralistic, open, participatory and knowledge-based. This is how our societies will become truly inclusive.
Education is a vital first step. Children and adolescents with disabilities are more likely to be out of school or to leave school before completing primary education. UNESCO is leading support to its Member States to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training, particularly through our partnership with the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education global resource base.
We also must do everything we can to take forward the Kazan Action Plan, adopted last year, through which UNESCO has committed to promote inclusive access for all to physical education, physical activity and sport around the world.
Improved access to information, knowledge and services is another vector for inclusion, with innovative digital solutions and resources technologies giving people more control over their lives. This is the importance of the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, which this year will recognize the outstanding contribution of individuals and organizations in removing barriers for people with disabilities, through these technologies.
In this year when we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the inclusion, participation and empowerment of all people, including those with disabilities, has never been so important. This is about equal rights and dignity – this is about building a better future for all.