A Conversation with UN Secretary-General Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility 

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On October 30, 2020, AUWCL’s International and Comparative Legal Studies program hosted a discussion with the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility, Professor María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, to identify, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, barriers, and challenges in addressing the acute and longer-term needs and human rights of persons with disabilities. This event was done to assess the implications of COVID-19 on the compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Currently, there are 182 States Parties to this Convention. The United States signed the Convention on July 30, 2009, but has not yet ratified. The almost universal ratification of this Convention means that it establishes the universal threshold of protection of persons with disabilities. Since the pandemic has caused particular burdens on this group, it is important to assess the implications on many levels of government action. The panelists addressed these challenges and explained how the United Nations takes them into account for its 2030 Agenda and “The World in 2050.”

The event also explored areas of collaboration focused on the economic and social empowerment of persons with disabilities and on harnessing synergies and comparative advantages among governments, organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), civil society and private sector entities, and other stakeholders.

The event was moderated by Prof. Javier Vásquez, Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary General on Disability and Accessibility and Adjunct Associate Faculty on Global Health Law at AUWCL. The U.N. Special Envoy was joined by panelists Prof. Robert Dinerstein, Acting Dean and Director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at AUWCL, Prof. Padideh Ala’i, Director of International and Comparative Legal Studies, and Dr. Michelle Funk, Unit Head, Policy, Law and Human Rights Unit at the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization.

See the full recording of the event here.