The Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Inclusiveness is one of its most distinguishing qualities: marginalized communities are not just beneficiaries of the development agenda but have also participated in its conception and formulation as main stakeholders. The 2030 Agenda pledges to leave no one behind and to uphold the vision of “a just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met”.[1] An intensive process of public consultation and engagement with civil society resulted in 17 SDGs and 169 associated targets, seven of which explicitly mention “persons with disabilities” or “disability”. At the same time, all goals and targets are universal in nature and encompass everyone, including persons with disabilities.

Striving to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and to promote the full development of their human potential, the SDGs reaffirm the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, the Convention has been ratified or acceded to by 17 of the 18 ESCWA member States. Lebanon has signed but not yet ratified the Convention. Seven ESCWA countries have also ratified or acceded to the optional protocol to the Convention, and four countries have signed but not ratified it.[2]

Table 3: Signatures and formal accessions/ratifications of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol among ESCWA countries

Country Convention Optional Protocol
Signed Ratified / acceded to Signed Ratified / acceded to
Bahrain 25/6/2007 22/9/2011 - -
Egypt 4/4/2007 14/4/2008 - -
Iraq - 20/3/2013 - -
Jordan 30/3/2007 31/3/2008 30/3/2007 -
Kuwait - 22/8/2013 - -
Lebanon 14/6/2007 - 14/6/2007 -
Libya 1/5/2008 13/2/2018 - -
Mauritania - 3/4/2012 - 3/4/2012
Morocco 30/3/2007 8/4/2009 - 8/4/2009
Oman 17/3/2008 6/1/2009 - -
Palestine - 2/4/2014 - -
Qatar 9/7/2007 13/5/2008 9/7/2007 -
Saudi Arabia - 24/6/2008 - 24/6/2008
Sudan 30/3/2007 24/4/2009 - 24/4/2009
Syrian Arab Republic 30/3/2007 10/7/2009 - 10/7/2009
Tunisia 30/3/2007 2/4/2008 30/3/2007 2/4/2008
United Arab Emirates 8/2/2008 19/3/2010 12/2/2008 -
Yemen 30/3/2007 26/3/2009 11/4/2007 26/3/2009

The SDGs and the Convention both recognize that socioeconomic inclusion of persons with disabilities is integral to eradicating poverty, achieving equality and ensuring sustainable development for all (table 4). Countries must fulfill the universal need for education, healthcare, employment, a reasonable standard of living and political and public representation so that persons with disabilities can live in dignity and participate as full and equal members of society. 

Table 4: Examples of linkages between the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Sustainable Development Goals

Gender equality

Gender equality. Article 6

States Parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Gender equality

Gender equality. Goal 5

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere


Article 9

[…] States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.


Goal 11

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities, and older persons

Provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities


Article 24

State Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education […] without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity.

States Parties shall ensure that:

Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability;

Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live;

Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is provided;

Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education


Goal 4

Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education

Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and children in vulnerable situations

Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all


Article 25

State Parties recognize that persons with disabilities have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability. […] States Parties shall:

Provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes;

Provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities, including among children and older persons;

Provide these health services as close as possible to people’s own communities, including in rural areas;


Goal 3

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes

Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all


Work and Employment

Article 27

States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.


Work and Employment

Goal 8

Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value


Standard of Living

Article 28

States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions […]

State Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social protection and to the enjoyment of that right without discrimination on the basis of disability, and shall take appropriate steps to […]

Ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to clean water services

Standard of Living

Goal 2

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

End hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round

End all forms of malnutrition, including the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age

Standard of Living

Goal 6

Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all

Standard of Living

Goal 7

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services

Participation in Political and Public Life

Article 29

State Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and shall undertake:

To ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected […]

To promote actively an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs, without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, and encourage their participation in public affairs […]

Participation in Political and Public Life

Goal 16

Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels

Promote and enforce non-discriminating laws and policies for sustainable development


Data, Monitoring, and Accountability

Article 31

State Parties undertake to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies to give effect to the present Convention.

The information collected in accordance with this article shall be disaggregated, as appropriate, and used to help assess the implementation of States Parties obligations under the present Convention and to identify and address the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in exercising their rights.

States Parties shall assume responsibility for the dissemination of these statistics and ensure their accessibility to persons with disabilities and others.

Data, Monitoring, and Accountability

Goal 17

Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Enhance capacity-building support to developing countries […] to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts

Build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product, and support statistical capacity-building in developing countries

Note: This selection of linkages between the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the SDGs is not exhaustive.

The SDGs are ambitious and require strong commitment and long-term cooperation from the international community. They also require careful planning not only in terms of policy formulation and implementation, but also in tracking progress and monitoring results. Monitoring mechanisms are both an accountability instrument and a management tool to help countries devise effective strategies and interventions and allocate appropriate resources. Recognizing the tremendous value of a valid and reliable monitoring mechanism, work started immediately following the agreement on the SDGs to develop an accompanying set of indicators. In July 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Indicator Framework (GIF), marking an important milestone in the global commitment to follow up and review progress towards the 17 SDGs.[3]

Reflecting the inclusiveness of the SDGs, the GIF pays due attention to the poorest and most vulnerable groups and includes 11 indicators that are specific to disability. The GIF is the starting point, not the end-point, for measuring progress and will continue to be refined as well as complemented by regional- and national-level indicators.

For the purpose of this analysis, the indicators recommended by the GIF have as far as possible been used. For instance, malnutrition has been measured by prevalence of stunting among children under five (indicator 2.2.1). Due to challenges related to data availability and quality, the analysis also uses proxy indicators. For example, the proportion of persons that have received medical care for their disability functions is used as a proxy for indicator 3.8.1 on coverage of essential health services (table 5). 

Table 5: List of indicators 

Sustainable Development Goals

Global Framework Indicators

Indicators used in this report and source

Disability-specific indicators

Other relevant socioeconomic indicators

Microdata analysis

Calculations from ESCWA statistics

2. End hunger

2.2.1 Prevalence of stunting among children under 5 years of age

2.2.2 Prevalence of malnutrition among children under 5 years of age, by type (wasting and overweight)

- Prevalence of stunting among children under 5 years of age, by disability status

- Prevalence of stunting among children under 5 years of age, by disability status

3. Health care/ Health coverage

3.8.1 Coverage of essential health services (defined as the average coverage of essential services based on tracer interventions that include reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and service capacity and access, among the general and the most disadvantaged population)

- Proportion of persons with disabilities that receive medical care

- Expenses on disability-related health care

4. Education

4.5.1 Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile and others such as disability status, indigenous peoples and conflict-affected, as data become available) for all education indicators on this list that can be disaggregated

4.6.1 Proportion of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex

- Literacy rate by sex, geographical residence, and disability status

- School attendance rate by sex, geographical residence, and disability status

- Education attainment level by sex, geographical residence, and disability status

6. Water and sanitation

6.1.1 Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services

Proportion of households with access to piped water services, by disability status

7. Electricity

7.1.1 Proportion of population with access to electricity

Proportion of households with access to electricity, by disability status

8. Employment

8.5.2 Unemployment rate, by sex, age and persons with disabilities

- Unemployment rate by sex and disability status

- Labor force participation rate by sex and disability status

[1] General Assembly resolution 70/1.

[2] United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, 2018.

[3] General Assembly resolution 71/313.