Interested in other areas of Sightsavers? Visit

Language selection

We use Google Translate as a service to provide you with different languages to choose from. Being an automated tool, it may occasionally make mistakes.

Select language:

“Nothing without us”: young people call for world leaders to include people with disabilities

April 2024

Young people with disabilities from around the world have come together at the UN’s Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, demanding action to ensure they are meaningfully included in the Summit of the Future and beyond.

Disability rights activist Lydia Vlagsma, who chaired the event, said: “Young people with disabilities should be included in decision-making for the same reason why young people without disabilities should be meaningfully included: because global decision-making affects their lives and reality. It is a fundamental democratic value to be able to take part in decision-making processes that affect you.”

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum took place on 16-18 April 2024 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It gave young people an opportunity to discuss solutions to speed up the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Equal World youth champion Tapiwa Mutsikira said awareness is crucial to changing minds. “Let’s just spread the word ‘inclusion’. We have to change minds, and to say ‘give us the opportunity to shout to the world we can do it with disabilities‘. Our disabilities are our motivation.”

Many more young people sharing their lived experiences with Equal World during the event, including:

  • Husnah Kukundakwe: Uganda Paralympic swimmer, youngest athlete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and International Paralympic Committee youth ambassador
  • Bosen Lily Liu: head of partnership and UN liaison unit, UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC)
  • Sylvain Obedi: youth fellow, International Disability Alliance
  • Mulenzi Tonny: research intern at Makerere University Child Health and Development Center, Kampala
  • Isidora Guzmán Silva: SDG youth ambassador, UN Youth Office
  • Abia Akram: global campaign ambassador, Sightsavers Equal World campaign

Taking place in September 2024, the Summit of the Future aims to reach an international consensus on how to “deliver a better present and safeguard the future” and revitalise global action to achieve the SDGs. But campaigners believe we cannot safeguard and plan for the future if we ignore those who will inherit it.

The SDGs are an urgent call for action globally to secure peace and prosperity for people and the planet by 2030, and were adopted in 2015. With just six years until the deadline for the SDGs, and only 12% of targets met, the world is in danger of sleepwalking into disaster.

This year Equal World is focusing on the inclusion of young people with disabilities in decision-making, culminating at the Summit of the Future. We will support young people with disabilities at global events throughout the year to ensure their voices are heard during the Pact for the Future negotiations so that no-one is left behind. Read more about the Equal World youth campaign.

About the ECOSOC Youth Forum “Nothing without us” event

The event was organised by Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities and the International Disability Alliance. It was supported by the International Paralympic Committee (WeThe15 campaign), UNESCO IESALC, Major Group for Children and Young People and UN Foundation; and was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Ghana and the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Lydia smiling in front of Utrecht Central Station.
A photo of Tapiwa smiling for the camera

Learn why young people are making their voices heard

Lydia and Tapiwa, who took part in the ECOSOC event, are both keen advocates for ensuring young people are included in global development.
Read Lydia’s story
Read Tapiwa’s story

Read all our latest news stories

Campaigns news