UNOPS promoting rights of people with disabilities

UNOPS is increasing its drive to ensure that all projects promote rights and access for people with disabilities.

As part of our policy for sustainable infrastructure, which establishes a sustainable, human rights-based approach for all UNOPS infrastructure activities, we have committed to implementing infrastructure projects in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This includes incorporating the concept of 'universal design', defined by the CRPD to ensure that facilities and services are accessible to all people.

Approximately 15 percent of the world’s population have disabilities, with a significant number of them coming from lower income countries. Barriers to equal access contribute to poorer health outcomes, increased dependency and higher rates of poverty, lower educational achievements and economic participation, and reduced participation in society for people with disabilities. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is marked annually on
3 December to highlight these issues and promote equal access.

In Haiti and Sri Lanka, UNOPS is partnering with Handicap International to train local engineers and architects in universal design. As a result, this approach is being incorporated into the construction of emergency shelters in the two countries.

Through the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme (EU PROGRES), funded by the European Union and the governments of Switzerland and Serbia, UNOPS is implementing 26 infrastructure projects with a direct impact on people with disabilities in Serbia. These include the construction and renovation of schools, health facilities, dairy and vegetable markets and other public buildings, in line with the concept of universal design. An additional 12 projects focus on furthering rights of people with disabilities.

"With the understanding that these disabilities are a combination of the person’s health and the environment in which that person lives, we are committed to building environments where accessibility barriers disappear, so that everyone can live, develop and contribute fully," said Bruce McCarron, Director of the UNOPS North America Regional Office.

UNOPS projects are also promoting the participation of people with disabilities in the workforce. In the Serbian towns of Vranje, Raška, and Novi Pazar, 21 individuals with disabilities were temporarily or permanently employed for EU PROGRES projects. In Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, a project funded by the Australian Agency for International Development and in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan, has employed people with disabilities for the construction and rehabilitation of rural roads.

On behalf of The United Nations Development Programme and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNOPS is also implementing assistance programmes for victims of anti-personnel mines and unexploded ammunition in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 In addition, UNOPS is developing a sustainable procurement policy that will highlight a similar commitment to promote rights and access for people with disabilities.