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Professor Showcases Disability and Global Governance Research at UN

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Professor Cogburn, executive director of Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP), presents disability and global governance research at the United Nations.

Professor Derrick Cogburn, executive director of American University’s Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) at the School of International Service, unveiled key preliminary findings of the IDPP study, Accessible Global Governance: The Invisibility of Persons with
, during his keynote presentation at one of the world’s largest international disability community gatherings—the annual Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at UN headquarters in New York City.

Cogburn’s presentation took place at the high-level side event, “Accessible Global Governance: The Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the UN System and Broader Global Governance Processes” on June 9.

“Tremendous questions still arise about how involved persons with disabilities are in UN conferences, meetings, and events,” says Cogburn. “This challenges the veracity of the deeply held sentiment, ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us,’ that emerged during the initial negotiations for the CRPD.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank estimate that more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability—approximately 15 percent of each country’s population. Based on draft preliminary findings from Phase I of the IDPP study—which included in-depth multi-stakeholder interviews with officials from the UN, government and multinational institutions, civil society organizations, and private companies—Cogburn offered a set of 50 preliminary recommendations on social, political, economic, and technological factors to enhance the effective participation of persons with disabilities in the UN system.

The recommendations include mechanisms to improve the accessibility of information, physical infrastructure, and transportation by persons with disabilities to UN conferences, as well as strategies for the prospective creation of a tenth UN-designated civil society major group for persons with disabilities.

Cogburn was joined at the event by leading experts in disability rights and public policy including: Lenin Moreno, UN Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility and former vice president of Ecuador; Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador and chairman of the Nippon Foundation ; Ambassador Luis Gallegos, former ambassador of Ecuador to the United States and chair of the UN task force that negotiated the convention; and Akiko Ito, chief of Secretariat for the Convention and UN focal point on disability.

Cogburn also delivered remarks during the general session of the conference to offer a summary of IDPP’s findings and outcome discussions from the side event. As a result of this discussion, Cogburn was invited back to the UN for a historic inaugural Major Groups and Other Stakeholders Workshop on Governance, Transparency, and Accountability on June 18-19. He will serve in the International Expert Meeting on the Establishment of a Global Category II Centre of Excellence for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on June 29-30.

This is the fifth consecutive year that IDPP has participated in the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD and offered a delegation of SIS graduate and undergraduate students and alumni who have served as official rapporteurs at the conference. Angie Njoku, SIS/MA ‘16, and Mona Hamza, SIS/BA ‘15, were among this year’s delegation.

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