Ignoring disabled youth will derail UN goals, Sightsavers warns

The Summit of the Future, is scheduled for September 2024, in New York

In Summary

•The campaign urges world leaders to integrate the perspectives of young people with disabilities into their plans.

•However, with just six years left and only 12% of the goals achieved, campaigners stress the urgency of the situation.

Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign
Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign
Image: Handout

Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign has warned that the exclusion of youth with disabilities in the United Nations Summit of the Future will doom the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The organisation has urged world leaders to integrate the perspectives of young people with disabilities into their plans.

"Without such inclusion, the ambitious global goals are at risk," Sightsavers added.

The Summit of the Future, scheduled for September 22-23, 2024, in New York, aims to accelerate progress on the SDGs which target poverty and inequality reduction by 2030.

However, with just six years left and only 12% of the goals achieved, Sightsavers has called for the urgent inclusion of people living with a disability.

“We’re in danger of sleepwalking into a disaster if we don’t act now,” said a Kenyan disability rights activist and Sightsavers' youth ambassador Lydia Rosasi. 

“The central promise of the goals, to leave no one behind, is in peril. We must listen to the voices of those being left behind, and ensure their ideas are at the heart of the commitments made.”

Sightsavers highlighted that youth with disabilities faced unique challenges and multiple forms of discrimination that often went unacknowledged in global decision-making processes.

A 2018 UN report noted that young people with disabilities were not adequately included in the SDG framework's implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

The campaign calls for world leaders to consult with disabled youth and include their insights in policymaking.

“To understand the barriers facing young people with disabilities, global decision-makers need to listen to young people with disabilities," she said.

Despite the summit’s agenda highlighting the inclusion of young people, their voices remain unheard when crucial decisions about their lives and futures are made.

The Equal World campaign is pressing UN member states to make specific and actionable commitments towards a disability-inclusive future and encourages the participation of young people with disabilities in global discussions ahead of the Summit of the Future.

"We are the experts in our own lived experience, and our voices must be heard in the development of our futures,” Rosasi emphasized.

The Summit of the Future will build on the outcomes of the SDG Summit held in September 2023, which reaffirmed the global commitment to the 17 SDGs adopted in 2015.

Sightsavers is an international organization registered under a UK charity working in over 30 low- and middle-income countries to eliminate avoidable blindness, combat neglected tropical diseases, and promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

The upcoming summit presents a vital opportunity for disabled youth to influence the future and for leaders to act on their insights.

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