UNESCO is one of the UN agencies that promotes and supports the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted in 2006. It is UNESCO’s vision to create knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all its citizens, and we strongly encourage nominations to this prize.
In her message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and last edition of the prize in 2018, Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, highlighted that “innovative solutions in all societal domains are urgently needed to address the extreme vulnerability experienced by persons with disabilities”. According to her, innovative digital solutions and resources technologies can give persons with disabilities more control over their lives.
The theme of the Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities 2020 is innovative ideas targeting people living with disabilities for immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This covers any of these three lines of action aimed at creating benefits:
- formulating policy, advocacy, co-operation and partnerships;
- creating and developing digital solutions, enabling environments and processes, including tools and resources; and
- building and strengthening capacities of people to create, adapt and use digital solutions in a cost efficient and sustainable manner.
The Prize adopts a broad definition of the term digital solutions as any of the following:
- Digital technologies: any digital informational or communication device or application, including but not restricted to mobile phones, computers, laptops, televisions, radios, satellite systems, networks, hardware, software and applications;
- Digital resources: content and information that are accessible through digital technologies; and
- Enabling environments and processes: standards, tools, physical, technical and online infrastructures, resources and locations.
Candidates in the two categories (individuals and institutions) must have proved themselves through outstanding activities contributing to digital empowerment that give persons with disabilities more power and control over their lives. This is particularly in terms of greater inclusion, participation and contribution to society as well as enhanced life experiences.
The total amount available for the Prize biennially is USD $ 40,000, which will be distributed equally between the individual and the organizational winners. Prize winners (Laureates) will be selected by the Director-General of UNESCO on the basis of the assessments and recommendations made by a Jury.
In addition, candidates and organizations are asked in 2020 to share their stories of empowerment and success on the new online platform “Story for Development”, to mainstream a shift of perspective on disability-issues. This helps show that removing barriers to participation can enable persons with disabilities to realise their potential, contribute to development and motivate those who are in a similar position or face similar obstacles. The voices of persons with disabilities will be thus heard by wider audiences and actors working in public and private spheres globally, helping governments, disabled people organisations, other civil society organisations, as well as the private sector, to draw conclusions and develop informed policies, community actions, and business plans.
In 2018, the persons with disabilities rights advocate Mr Vashkar Bhattacharjee (Bangladesh), and private sector enterprise, Tencent (Peoples’ Republic of China) were awarded the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.