FEEDBACK: Inequalities Addressed at the High Level Political Forum 2019

Posted by: on Jul 19, 2019 | No Comments

During the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) at the United Nations in New York this year, Sustainable Development Goal 10 on “Reduced Inequalities” was one of the four highlighted SDGs. 

By Ruby Holmes, HI Inclusive Governance Specialist

This crosscutting theme was prevalent in most official and side events, as reducing poverty reduces inequalities globally. This is especially true for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups as they often face the highest levels of inequality.

HI staff joined meetings and events representing the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities (SGPwD) throughout the first week of HLPF, 8-12 July. We were among 50 participants representing this important group during the first of two weeks. On Wednesday 10 June, the SGPwD held an official side event entitled “Reducing inequalities: a look at persons with disabilities”. The side event addressed how to advance the implementation of SDG 10 for persons with disabilities by bringing concrete, action-oriented recommendations in the context of education, employment, peace, justice and strong institutions. 

During Thursday’s official session and discussion on SDG 10, there was an overall emphasis on the need for more attention on this specific SDG and on the cross cutting issue that is inequality. Most speakers discussed tackling inequality through employment, education and social protection, among the other SDGs that were highlighted this year. The topic of disability was mentioned many times, but often to refer to persons with disabilities as a vulnerable population, without proposing practical means to ensure their inclusion. Without a doubt, the most powerful points were made by civil society members who spoke to the lived experience, most notably by Ali Akmal, PIANGO representative and Pacific Islander from Fiji.

Throughout the HLPF, the focus was on migration t and nearly all member states addressed this issue in their official statements. There was a consensus on the need to address migration as both a reason for inequality while also a main factor of inequality. In addition to migration, the topics of access to justice and decriminalization of factors that create inequalities, such as sexual orientation and labor rights, were prevalent themes.  

Although the HLPF allowed for meaningful participation of persons with disabilities, representation was still lacking. A handful of representatives from organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) were present, but partnerships should be fostered to promote increased attendance and leading roles at official and side events. With so many authorities gathered together to discuss Agenda 2030, and essentially how to reduce inequalities globally, individuals who are among the most left behind should be given the leading role on how to address the barriers and inequality they experience daily.

Rosario Galarza Meza representing the SGPwD and RIADIS (Latin American Network of non-Governmental Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and their Families) was on the official speakers’ list for Thursday’s official event on SDG 10. However, she was slotted to speak last and, due to time constraints, was prevented from speaking. Therefore, we want to share here the list of recommendations that she was going to issue on behalf of the SGPwD:

We (SQPwD) recommend to:

  • Urgently repeal all discriminatory laws and take measures to eliminate discriminatory practices,

  • Gather disaggregated data on persons with disabilities at all levels,

  • Identify subgroups of persons with disabilities, including those who face intersectional discrimination, and adopt specific measures to accelerate or achieve inclusive equality.

While it is clear that these conversations and discussions are critical, it is also obvious that concrete actions or ways to move ideas forward are lacking. This was perfectly expressed during the opening session by Ms. Yolanda Joab Mori, Founder and Executive Director of Island PRIDE, and One Young World Ambassador for Micronesia. As Humanity & Inclusion continues to work alongside persons with disabilities and vulnerable populations to improve living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights, Ms. Mori’s statement comes at a critical time:

“Today I look out to this room and I see power. I see people in a position to either make or influence the decisions and actions we need. But the world doesn’t need any more power. What we need, if we’re ever going to come close to reaching our 2030 Goals, isn’t power, what we need now is action, and to get there we need some courage. Young people are starving to see some courage reflected in our leaders. Leadership that has the guts to take action. Leadership that is fearless enough to put people and planet above profit. Leadership that is inclusive, uplifts equality and empowers everyone.”


Read the other articles on HLPF 2019: