UN Secretary-General Calls for Inclusive Data to Support Persons with Disabilities

  • COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent of exclusion faced by persons with disabilities, but only 3% of countries have data on persons with disabilities experiencing discrimination.

  • In a positive trend, the report observes greater discussion of persons within disabilities within the Voluntary National Reviews prepared for each session of the HLPF.


SDG progress has become harder to assess without data on situations facing persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a UN report. The report of the UN Secretary-General on ‘Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities’ (A/75/187), issued on 20 July 2020, presents the “imperative” that disability inclusion be incorporated in crisis response, recovery and building back better.

The Secretary-General notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities that were present before the crisis and exposed “the extent of exclusion” faced by persons with disabilities. It also aggravates the multidimensional challenges they face. The report recalls that seven SDG targets make explicit reference to persons with disabilities.

The report notes that only 3% of countries have data on persons with disabilities experiencing discrimination. Overall, “the lack of reliable, timely and comparable data related to persons with disabilities further challenges the ability to assess the progress or lack thereof” towards the SDGs.

However, the report suggests that an increasing number of countries and international agencies are working to collect disability data, including through new, innovative methodologies. For example, smartphone-based crowdsourcing can provide information on the accessibility of physical spaces around the world. Another positive trend is greater discussion of persons within disabilities within the voluntary national reviews (VNRs) prepared for each session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Among its recommendations, the report highlights a “twin-track approach” that pairs greater inclusion with targeted effort to address the specific needs of members of marginalized groups. It also recommends that innovations emerging from the COVID-19 era – such as telecommuting and remote learning – be “pursued in a way that helps to advance social inclusion.”

Finally, the Secretary-General urges efforts in line with the Inclusive Data Charter adopted in 2018 in order to “compile disability data on a systematic and regular basis globally, regionally and nationally to track progress, identify gaps and facilitate policymaking.” Moreover, broader use of data collection using the Washington Group’s disability questions could be promoted, the report suggests.

The report concludes with a set of actions for Member States to consider, in order to mainstream disability and protect the rights of persons with disabilities in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the 2030 Agenda.


[Publication: Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities: Report of the Secretary-General]

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