Image: Unesco

GENEVA- Support systems are essential for persons with disabilities to live with dignity, autonomy and independence, a UN expert said today, urging that their voices be included in broader policy approaches to care and services.

In a report to the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn, said there was a need to develop a new philosophy of services and support.

“States and societies at large must move away from systems that were historically built to provide a material safety net and relegate persons with disabilities to the margins of society,” he said.

Quinn said that personhood and social inclusion should always determine how services and support systems are designed, delivered, and monitored, adding this was the only way to make the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including the right to live independently, a reality.

“We have the means to implement a new philosophy of services in how we shape the market,” Quinn said. He stressed that the goal was not to replace public sector with private sector, and argued that when placing focus on markets, they should be designed to achieve optimal social outcomes.

“The business sector can be a positive force for change when actively consulting and partnering with civil society to create products and services that truly advance rights,” the Special Rapporteur said.

At a time of an unprecedented global cost of living crisis, human rights-based support systems and services for people with disabilities must be prioritised to ensure that no one is left behind, the expert said.

“The Sustainable Development Goals summit in September 2023 will provide a significant opportunity for the inclusion and progress in transforming support and service provision away from traditional care models and towards systems based on choice,” Quinn said and pointed that care can only mean an approach that is consistent with individual respect and inclusion.

Echoing the High Commissioner’s remarks on a human rights economy earlier this year, his call complements a new report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on support systems for persons with disabilities.