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UN expert urges ‘new philosophy’ to help persons with disabilities

A woman in a wheelchair on a point view admires the high mountains

In his latest report to the Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn, outlined how more inclusive policy approaches and innovative private sector involvement can spur progress.

“States and societies at large must move away from systems that were historically built to provide a material safety net and relegate persons with disabilities to the margins of society,” he said. “We have the means to implement a new philosophy of services in how we shape the market.”

Personhood and social inclusion should always determine how services and support systems are designed, delivered, and monitored, he said. Indeed, adding this concept was the only way to make the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including the right to live independently, a reality.

Products to advance rights

However, the goal is not to replace public sector with private sector, he explained. Instead, when placing focus on markets, they should be designed to achieve optimal social outcomes.

“The business sector can be a positive force for change when actively consulting and partnering with civil society to create products and services that truly advance rights,” he said.

Choice-based systems

At a time of an unprecedented global cost of living crisis, human rights-based support systems and services for persons with disabilities must be prioritized to ensure that no one is left behind, he said.

“The Sustainable Development Goals summit in September 2023 will provide a significant opportunity for the inclusion and progress in transforming support and service provision away from traditional care models and towards systems based on choice,” Mr. Quinn continued, adding that care can only mean an approach that is consistent with individual respect and inclusion.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts operate in their individual capacity. They are not UN staff, nor do they receive a salary for their work.

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