Making visible the invisible

A disability-inclusive approach for leaving no one behind

Special Event
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
14:00 to 15:30

The session will discuss the main barriers for active and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in democracy and decision making processes. Despite the different international frameworks, persons with disabilities are still one of the most discriminated and vulnerable groups, due to attitudinal barriers and lack of accessibility and inclusion. In this sense, the session will explore ways to develop a disability-inclusive perspective in the human-rights based approach, to leave no one behind. As part of the agenda, the session will, as well, debate about the multiple discrimination that women, migrants, ethnic minorities or LGBT with disabilities, among other groups, face, and will provide recommendations for an inclusive and accessible implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Key points

  • Disabled people remain among the most vulnerable and marginalised groups, despite international conventions to promote their rights.

  • Up to one billion people live with some form of disability, some 80 % of them in developing countries.

  • Disabled people must be consulted in the decision-taking process on international aid – on planning, budgeting and implementation – as experts and not beneficiaries.

  • The European Union has the chance to become a global leader in the promotion of inclusive assistance that fully meets the demand to include disabled people.

  • In Africa, disabled women can suffer from “double discrimination”.


Some 13 years after the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people with disabilities remain among the most vulnerable and discriminated against sectors of any population. From the provision of health services, to education, from the availability of job opportunities to personal mobility, people with disabilities face exclusion and indifference. Up to 1 billion people around the world live with some form of disability, some 80 % of them in developing countries. It is vital their voice be heard in policymaking and decision-taking, particularly in the provision of development cooperation and assistance to developing countries. Participants urged that people with disabilities be fully included in all work regarding international cooperation – at the planning, budgeting and implementation stages. They must be involved, not just as beneficiaries of international assistance, but as experts in the field. Disabled people may not always know what is best, but they certainly know what is appropriate. International aid programmes cannot ignore a significant section of the population and its needs. The EU has the chance to take the global lead as a promoter of inclusive development that embraces the needs of disabled people. EU countries share a strong political commitment to making development cooperation inclusive and to fulfilling the pledge of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to leave “no-one behind”. The EU is already funding more than 400 projects aimed at people with disabilities in partnership with civil society and governments. The EU has created a disability rights’ marker – a “visibility marker” – to track the degree to which development assistance projects conform to the bloc’s commitment to promote the rights, involvement and inclusion of the disabled. This should be a valuable source of statistical information. One of the problems in monitoring conformity with international conventions on the disabled is a lack of statistical information. This lack of information creates an additional “invisibility”. There have been calls for the EU to propose a global summit on the issue of disabled-inclusive development assistance, a possibility that a new EU Commission, due to be chosen later this year, could study. Public-private partnerships – involving governments and industry – can also be important drivers of inclusive development. Spain’s ONCE Foundation for Cooperation and the Social Inclusion of the Disabled has a number of such projects in Latin America. One such project, which operates in 12 different countries, trains the blind to get a foothold in the jobs market. It works with local authorities and involves industry and family members in the process. Often, the family members of a blind person do not see employment as a realistic option. In Africa, the exclusion of the disabled can be exacerbated by gender discrimination. Disabled women can face “double marginalisation”. In the health sector, for example, women encounter negative attitudes and health workers with limited knowledge and skills. There is a need to overcome a mindset, which sees disabled people as inferior.


Attitudes must change towards children with disabilities, who can end up in institutions because they have no-one to care for them. Change can be achieved by spending more time with them and getting to know them. When children with disabilities feel supported the sky is the limit.

Organised by


Javier Marcelino Güemes Pedraza
International Relations Director
Mihret Nigussie Chengerei
Federation of Ethiopia National Association of Person with Disability
Henriette Geiger
Director, Directorate People and Peace
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Margaret Orech
Uganda Landmine Survivors Association
Veliko Velikov
Alberto Durán
Vice President
Spanish Organisation of the Blind (ONCE)
Ioannis Vardakastanis
European Disability Forum