A meeting at the UN: Integrating Disability Rights in the MDGs

> Posted by Michael Stein


Michael Stein

On Thursday September 3, at the United Nations in New York, the Harvard Law School Project on Disability co-sponsored a side session at the Second Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first human rights treaty of the twenty first century. The side session was focused on raising awareness and creating a forum to discuss possible avenues for making the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) disability-inclusive.
Although the MDGs relate to disability by referencing poverty, education, health care provision, and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen has publicly stated that the MDGs cannot achieve their goal without including person with disabilities, to date they do not expressly reference disability. This absence is especially problematic given that persons with disabilities suffer severe poverty at a higher rate than those without disabilities. For example, although 10% of the world’s population has a disability, 20% of those living below the dollar a day standard have a disability.
Microfinance provides one option to States Parties to the CRPD in their duties to provide an adequate standard of living to their citizens with disabilities, as well as in their duties to provide employment opportunities to that same group. And, when part of international development work undertaken by Sates Parties to the CRPD, Microfinance must be disability-inclusive.
HPOD Executive Director Michael Stein chaired the session, which had presentations from Akiko Ito, Chief of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Disability Secretariat; Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Senior Operations Manager from the World Bank (and a former Human Rights Commissioner from South Africa); international disability rights advocate Maria veronica Reina, who now manages the Global Partnership on Disability and Development; and  Joshua Goldstein, of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, the microfinance organization.