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World falling behind on disability rights

June 2023

The Sustainable Development Goals are ‘in peril’ if marginalised groups are left behind, says Sightsavers.

A new 100-day campaign has been launched calling for action to protect global disability rights ahead of a high-level UN summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September.

The SDGs are a set of 17 ambitious goals which aim to reduce poverty and inequality by 2030. They were adopted in 2015 by the UN and governments around the world. 2023 marks the mid-way point of the SDGs, and so in 100 days’ time UN member states will gather at the SDG Summit in New York to assess progress and make new commitments. The outcome of the summit will be a negotiated Political Declaration.

In the lead up to this event, Sightsavers’ ‘Equal World’ campaign is highlighting that progress on these global goals could be in peril unless attention is given to marginalised groups, including people with disabilities. The call follows a new UN report which shows that the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved unless urgent action is taken to include to those most often ‘left behind’ groups.

“As the world is coming to the halfway point of the 2030 deadline, progress on the SDGs has derailed – they are completely off-track. The promise to leave no one behind is in peril”, said Abia Akram, disability rights activist and Sightsavers’ global campaign ambassador.

Akram added, “As the UN Secretary-General’s report shows, people with disabilities are being hit hardest by the lack of progress on poverty and inequality. Globally, up to twice as many people with disabilities live under the poverty line than people without disabilities.”

“We’re calling on all world leaders to speed up action on the SDGs and make sure they are inclusive of people with disabilities. World leaders must ensure that the Political Declaration, and all national commitments made at the Summit focus on reaching those who are being left furthest behind. This is our last chance to get the Goals back on track”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen existing inequalities deepen, education disrupted, and huge pressure put on already weak health systems. At the same time, the world faces growing threats from conflict and the climate crisis. People with disabilities – particularly women and girls – are disproportionately affected by all these challenges.

Abia Akram, said: “In order to bring about sustainable change, achieve the SDGs and create a more equal world, global decision-makers cannot continue to ignore the 16% of the global population who have disabilities. With 100 days to go until the SDG Summit in September, we must act now to rescue the SDGs and truly leave no one behind.”

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