Universal Accessibility for an Equitable Decade of Action

 [flyer] Print screen of flyer of the campaign: Universal Accessibility: Pillar and Bridge in Human Rights and Sustainable Development" campaign.   It shows an accessible and inclusive city, with a balance of gender, age, ethnicity and types of disability, among others.

UN Special Envoy’s Campaign “Universal Accessibility: Pillar and Bridge of Human Rights and Sustainable Development”

From the November 30th to December 4th, 2020 the United Nations held its 13th Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP).

The COSP is the official mechanism for review of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the most swiftly ratified Human Rights Instrument in history. The CRPD represents a global imperative to realize the rights of over 1 billion persons with disabilities around the world and highlights the principle of Accessibility as the precondition to the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined within the Convention.

Following the key debates of the Townhall on Inclusive and Accessible Cities and approval of its recommendations by the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments in November 2019, UCLG co organized and sponsored two high level dialogues in the framework of the 13th COSP and in direct partnership with the UN Special Envoy on Accessibility and Disability and World Enabled to recall the importance of local and regional governments in achieving the CRPD and to highlight the link between equitable local public service provision and human rights.

The first side event, held on the 30th of November, was the launch of the UN Special Envoy’s Campaign Universal Accessibility: Pillar and Bridge of Human Rights and Sustainable Development”. The event, moderated by Paula Arroyave of the UN Special Envoy’s office and attended by 125 participants, included high-level representation from HE Ambassador Munir Akram, President of ECOSOC; HE Cristian Espinosa, President of the 13th COSP; HE Milenko Skoknic, Permanent Mission of Chile to the UN; Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, UN Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility; Amalia Gamio Rios, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Emilia Saiz, United Cities and Local Governments; Cid Torquato, city of Sao Paulo; Dr Victor S Pineda, World Enabled; and Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius, World Blind Union (WBU).

Along with the presentation of the materials of the Campaign, the speakers highlighted the imperative of Universal Accessibility to address and reduce the inequalities that have been further exacerbated by the pandemic by:

  • Focusing on accessibility during the High-Level Political Forum in 2021, particularly on aspects of equitable healthcare and the financing of universal accessibility
  • Addressing discrimination through accessibility, particularly in financing mechanisms, procurement and implementation of technologies in development.
  • Better understanding of, and training for public servants on, Accessibility and Universal Design
  • Localizing accessibility and universal design standards
  • Disaggregating data on disability to better understand and address inequalities through evidence-based plans and actions

The UN Special Envoy stressed the need to build from and use this discussion as a mechanism for continued collaboration to turn the commitments and recommendations highlighted by the speakers into measurable steps to realize the principle of Leave No One Behind.

The second event titled Cities at the Forefront of Access and Inclusion: Localizing the CRPD and Accelerating the 2030 Agenda”, co-organized with our strategic partner World Enabled and attended by 115 participants, looked at the key role of local governments in advancing the CRPD and the resources to support local governments in the promotion of a human rights approach to sustainable development. The event was celebrated on the 3rd of December to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the 2nd Anniversary of the Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities.

The event included interventions from Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, UN Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility; Rachel Arfa, city of Chicago; Ibrahim Evrim, city of Mersin; Patricia Morla, City of Villa Carlos Paz; Federico Lezama, City of Canelones;  Iain McKinnon, GDI Hub; Michal Rimon, Access Israel; Hannes Julius Lagrelius WBU; Dr Victor S Pineda, World Enabled; and Emilia Saiz, UCLG.  

The interventions of the city representatives called for greater representation of persons with disabilities in government and policy making, the need to bridge the digital accessibility divide, equitable access to information, localization of human rights frameworks to promote diversity cities, mechanisms to share knowledge and experiences, and transforming public administration and public spaces to change perceptions on and access for vulnerable populations.

In response to the cities’ interventions, Members of World Enabled, the World Blind Union, Global Disability Innovation Hub, and Access Israel called for meaningful partnerships with local governments and presented tools for collaboration to support governments in the delivery of commitments to the CRPD and promotion of equity in local democracy.

As part of the commemorations of the event, the Mayor of Mersin, Mr. Vahap Seçer, signed the Global Compact on Inclusive and Accessible Cities, making Mersin the first Turkish city to sign the Compact and commit to its 6 principles that align the key commitments to inclusion and accessibility within the CRPD, the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, and the WHO’s Age Friendly Cities Framework.

Building on next steps, a call to action was made towards a process of co creation that goes beyond compliance with current laws and competencies, and towards what we need to do for the change to Cities for All.