Ensuring Inclusion in Political Processes  

The year 2024 is the biggest election year in history with half the world’s adult population potentially going to the polls. This provides an unprecedented opportunity for people to have their voices heard. 

But who gets to vote and who gets to stand for election – a key indicator of a healthy democratic election remains an issue of concern. Fuelling these concerns are the increasing polarisation of communities, a tidal wave of hate speech, dis- and misinformation and an alarming backlash against human rights. 

For persons with disabilities, the challenges are even more pronounced: from inaccessible voter information to inaccessible voting booths and from outdated laws to stigma and discrimination. There are multiple legal, institutional, structural, and societal barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from engaging in political life and having a say in their own futures.  

Despite the progress that is being made, one in three persons with disabilities still experience discrimination. This is twice the rate of persons without disabilities. And while the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has driven substantial positive change, the reality in many countries is that outdated laws continue to prevent many persons with disabilities from fully accessing their rights, including the right to vote and stand for election. With the support of partners such as Germany, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is challenging this unacceptable situation by providing support to countries to ensure that elections are credible, peaceful, and inclusive of people of all abilities. 

Picture of woman at voting center
Voter registration and voting day

As the largest UN provider of electoral assistance, UNDP has recently launched a practical guide on how to strengthen the political participation of persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities. Designed as a tool for governments and other key groups, the guide has been developed in partnership with Inclusion International, and with funding from the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Multi-Partner Trust Fund. Critically, it has benefited from input from focus groups with persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities from all around the world. 

UNDP also works with countries to address the specific barriers that persons with disabilities face. For instance, in Libya, UNDP and the High National Elections Commission have established sign language call systems for people with hearing disabilities while the purchase of Braille printers is also helping to increase participation of those with visual disabilities, particularly on election day. The year of super elections may have put a spotlight on the critical act of voting. However, ensuring that persons with disabilities have a meaningful voice beyond these elections, and that they can hold those in power to account, also means ensuring their full participation in political and public life on an equal basis with others. 

Recognising this, and with support from Germany, UNDP Mozambique is highlighting the political rights of persons with disabilities through its partnership with the Forum of Mozambican Associations of People with Disabilities. Together, they have produced a Public Service Announcement for television entitled „Who am I?. The video features statements from members of the National Parliament who live with some form of visible disability, as well as from civil society organisations working for and with persons with disabilities. 

Beyond the Ballot

Picture of someone reading a braille book
Voter's registration day. Picture by

Increasing inclusion goes beyond the ballot box. It requires countries to strengthen their governance systems – so that decisions are owned and supported by citizens. And it demands an environment where persons with disabilities voices are heard, and their concerns are addressed in public policies as equal citizens of the country. 

This is why UNDP supports disability inclusion across all aspects of governance – from inclusion in elections to inclusion in democratic institutions including parliaments, judiciaries, and electoral bodies. By partnering with civil society and local communities we are also investing in tackling stigma and discrimination, while also working with governments to ensure the structural changes needed to empower persons with disabilities, ensure their rights are respected, and uphold the Rule of Law. 2024 has caught the world’s attention with its promise of an unprecedented opportunity to build a new world.  But if we truly want to create a future where people’s voices are heard beyond the ballot box, and where everyone can participate equally and openly, then investing in disability inclusion is the path to get there. 

Article by UNDP

Further Information

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