The High-level Political Forum took place from 9-18 July at the UN in New York with the theme of “transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.” The Goals under review included 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, and 17. The first week of the Forum included numerous panels and round tables focused on the theme and the SDGs under review and the second week provided the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).
On a very positive note for persons with disabilities and accessibility, Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, the UN’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility presented in the opening of the Forum. Her presentation focused on different areas, including accessibility. For example, she stated that if technology is not accessible, it will become one more barrier for millions of people throughout the world, such as, persons with disabilities, older persons and other sectors. In addition, persons with disabilities made up a large group at the Forum with 31 participants with disabilities and advocates from around the world as part of the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities.
CBM co-sponsored a side event the first week with the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities and others on Goal 11: Inclusion of persons with disabilities in societies. The event was very well attended with 70 attendees and had an interactive and lively dialogue.
During the second week, 46 countries presented their national reviews of SDG implementation. During these three Ministerial days of VNR presentations, persons with disabilities were included 36 times. In addition, some national videos included captions, one video (from Ireland) included a deaf child signing, and Namibia included a Namibian Sign Language interpreter on the screen for its entire video!
Also, six persons with disabilities presented official statements with questions to countries during their VNRs, including to Greece, Lebanon, Malta, Namibia, Niger, and Switzerland. One of our participants from the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities presented questions to Namibia in International Sign, which was the first time this was done during a VNR at the UN.
On 18 July, the 2018 HLPF Ministerial Declaration was adopted with three references to persons with disabilities: on disaggregated data (para 18), commitment to leave no one behind (para 11), and in WASH (para 23).
As the focal point on accessibility for the HLPF, long-term collaboration with the UN produced positive outcomes during the Forum, including:
- Wheelchair users had access CR 4 on the ground floor and Trusteeship Council Chamber on the second floor for access to the presentations;
- CART services were provided in person, online, and on webcast for all eight days of the HLPF;
- Seating was reserved for persons with disabilities in all rooms being used;
- The UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform was accessible;
- Persons with disabilities and their personal assistants were able to register and obtain passes easily and personal assistants were not considered participants (when there was a maximum number permitted);
- International Sign was provided for three days at the Ministerial Segment;
- Documents and presentations were shared prior to events for CART providers and sign language interpreters;
- The HLPF agenda and other documents were provided in Braille;
- The UN set up an accessibility walk-through in advance of the HLPF;
- The UN staff positively collaborated with us in various areas (room, technology, accessibility services, and interpretation).
A very big thanks to the UN for this work and positive collaboration that we hope continues and also continues to improve to ensure no one is left behind.