Catalina Devandas, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities
Catalina Devandas, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities

Dear Toolbox-Users,

How can development for all be ensured? How to make sure that all persons enjoy their rights to live independently in the community, determining the course of their life freely, in their own way on an equal basis with others?

Social protection as a human right has the potential to contribute to building inclusive societies and promoting active citizenship for people across the world. Social protection systems mitigate life risks and financial distresses, strengthen human capacities and empowerment, and promote full and effective participation. They strengthen social cohesion and are, thus, an investment in sustainable, peaceful social and economic development.

But how can we leverage this enormous potential for all people? 70 per cent of the world’s population still lives without any social protection. Among them are informal workers, women and men, children and older persons, migrants, indigenous persons, and persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities, in particular, are left out of the systems, with limited access to education, employment, health care and social security. 

Over a billion people, about 15% of the world's population, live with a disability. Although the majority of them live in developing or emerging countries, poverty among persons with disabilities is not just an issue of the global-south but a phenomenon of global scale. Children and youth with disabilities are less likely to receive education and working-age persons with disabilities are usually unemployed or inactive. Half of the persons with disabilities worldwide cannot afford healthcare provision. 

However, little knowledge is available on how persons with disabilities can be adequately included by social protection systems, and how social protection can contribute to supporting social participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities. This knowledge gap is supplemented by a lack of appropriate approaches and tools for inclusive planning and implementation of social protection systems.

Article 28 of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities emphasizes the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection for persons with disabilities. If we want to make this right real, we have to increase our focus on the development and extension of inclusive social protection systems. We have to look closer at excluding and including factors in the design of social protection systems.

In this regard, I welcome the research initiative of German Development Cooperation concerning the inclusion of persons with disabilities in systems of social protection. As an outcome of this project, the present toolbox brings together existing knowledge, methodologies and tools as well as new research findings and innovative instruments for increasing inclusion of persons with disabilities in social protection at implementation level. 

I welcome this platform as starting point for pooling existing knowledge, practice examples and tools. Yet, it is more than that. It builds on a strong momentum where the reflection on inclusive social protection is growing; it strengthens the international discourse and helps building a broader basis for future commitment and action. It contributes to sustainability in international development. 

If we are really committed to leave no one behind, we need to join efforts and strongly invest in comprehensive social protection systems for all; this initiative is an important step in that direction.

Catalina Devandas 
UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities