Ignore the youths with disabilities and UN goals will fail, say campaigners

Judy Ndunge Kenya June 11, 2024

 In September 2024 world leaders will come together for the Summit of the Future in New York, to accelerate progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These global goals aim to reduce poverty and inequality by 2030, but with the deadline looming and 50% of time gone, only 12% of targets have been met.

Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign says without immediate and radical action, and underrepresented voices being heard, they will fail. It has launched a global advocacy push calling for action in the lead up to the UN event.

Lydia Rosasi, a Kenyan disability rights activist and Sightsavers’ youth ambassador, said, “We’re in danger of sleepwalking into disaster if we don’t act now.

“The central promise of the goals, to leave no one behind, is in peril. We must listen to the voices of those being left behind, and ensure their ideas are at the heart of the commitments made.”

The Summit of the Future is the ‘sister’ summit of the SDG Summit in September 2023 which looked at the set of 17 ambitious goals which were adopted in 2015 by the UN and governments around the world.

Ahead of the upcoming UN summit, campaigners are calling for seismic change. They are calling upon world leaders to listen to and consult people with disabilities, particularly young people, in global decision-making processes.

According to Lydia, “To understand the barriers facing young people with disabilities, global decision-makers need to listen to young people with disabilities. We are the experts in our own lived experience, and our voices must be heard in the development of our futures. World leaders need to listen to us before they put in place disability laws, and need to understand our experiences and our challenges so they know how to make sure these laws are enacted and become a reality.”

Although the summit’s agenda does focus on ‘meaningfully including young people’, UN processes often fail to fully acknowledge the complexity and multiple forms of discrimination faced by youth with disabilities. As a result, their voices go unheard when decisions are made about their lives and futures. A 2018 flagship UN report found that young people with disabilities were not yet sufficiently included in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs.

Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign is calling on UN member states to ensure a disability-inclusive future, and to contribute specific and actionable commitments on disability.

The campaign also calls for the member states to encourage the participation of young people with disabilities in national and global discussions on the Summit of the Future.

To learn more about Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, please visit: https://campaigning.sightsavers.org/

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