Side event hosted by Qatar on “The role of technology and digital innovation in supporting the reproductivity and reaching of persons with disabilities”

Keynote speech
Side event hosted by Qatar on “The role of technology and digital innovation in supporting the reproductivity and reaching of persons with disabilities”

In the margins of the sixteenth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Your Excellency Minister Maryam bint Ali bin Nasser Al Misnad,
Your Excellency Ambassador Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani,
Excellencies,
Dear colleagues,

Good afternoon. 

On behalf of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, I warmly welcome you to this event, held in the margins of the 16th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This event addresses two seemingly disparate issues: closing the digital divide for persons with disabilities, and the upholding of their sexual and reproductive rights.

Our discussions here today will not only show how these two factors are intimately related but will provide insight on how one can work to improve the other, and together strengthen the effective integration of persons with disabilities in public life.

Digital innovation and technology can be enablers of progress in achieving the SDGs and implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including those related to sexual and reproductive health. 

As you know, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services are an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5 call for protecting reproductive rights and for ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services. Likewise, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also includes relevant articles to uphold such rights.

Yet, in many countries persons with disabilities still have lower access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Persons with disabilities in rural areas are even less likely to have access to appropriate care, information and services. 

Digital platforms for sexual and reproductive health care, information and services, including mobile health apps and tele-medicine, have the potential to reach many persons with disabilities. However, these same technologies can also serve as barriers if they are not developed with consideration of the needs and perspectives of persons with disabilities. 

Relatedly, a persistent digital divide between persons with and without disabilities has resulted in differential access to information and technologies. 

At the macro level, obstacles to technology transfer between countries create an additional barrier. Technology often does not reach persons with disabilities in poorer countries that lack the resources to develop or import these technologies. 

Excellencies, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for increasing the role of digital technologies in healthcare. However, the sharp rise in demand for healthcare resources during the pandemic resulted in policies and practices that failed to take into account the needs of persons with disabilities.

A window of opportunity now exists to adapt existing technologies and invest in new digital products to make them accessible for all and to ensure that they respond to the needs of persons with disabilities. 

To understand better the opportunities that technology and digital innovation offer in realising the SDGs and the CRPD in relation to the sexual and reproductive health of persons with disabilities, let us focus on four key areas of action. 

First, it is essential to engage persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the design of technologies and service programmes. This should include employing persons with disabilities in technology firms, as they can offer valuable perspectives on the development of new technologies. 

Second, the international community can help by building capacity and supporting countries to develop, manage and acquire crucial technologies that can assist persons with disabilities to achieve a high standard of sexual and reproductive health. 

Third, countries should adopt legislation on accessibility requirements for technologies, including digital technologies, guided by the existing international standards.

Fourth, we must work to strengthen systems for monitoring and evaluating progress in the use of technologies and digital innovations for sexual and reproductive health by persons with disabilities. Data and information on the availability and use of technologies will be key in shaping disability-inclusive policies and programmes.

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As we stand at the midpoint for achieving the SDGs, there is an increasing urgency of implementing the 2030 Agenda with and for persons with disabilities, including for advancing their sexual and reproductive health. 

Qatar has been a leader in promoting disability-inclusive development. Let me give one example.

In 2019, Qatar organized a major international conference on disability and development. The outcome document from this conference, known as the Doha Declaration, has served as an invaluable reference for addressing many aspects of disability-inclusive development, including for advancing reproductive rights and ensuring access to reproductive healthcare among persons with disabilities. 

I am confident that the rich discussions of today’s event will be another important step in ensuring that all persons with disabilities everywhere have access to quality sexual and reproductive health care, information and services. 

Thank you.
 

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