Urban accessibility: WBU Program Officer appointed to key UN stakeholder advisory group

June 9, 2021 10:57 am Published by
Mr Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius

Photo: Mr Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius at the United Nations

Mr. Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius is responsible for coordinating the World Blind Union (WBU) ’s Global Program for Inclusive and Accessible Urban Development. He was just appointed as an independent expert by the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) to their Stakeholder Advisory Group Enterprise (SAGE), amongst 140 nominations, together with six other new members. The goal of this group is to advise the Executive Director on engaging partners effectively to support the implementation of the urban dimensions of the sustainable development agenda.

We asked three questions to Mr. Hannes Juhlin Lagrelius


Why is WBU working with UN-Habitat and what brings you here?

Cities are key drivers for sustainable development. Sustainable urbanization can help realizing the rights of persons with disabilities and address key priorities such as poverty, exclusion, climate change, unemployment, disaster resilience and building back better after the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2019, I have been working with WBU and its partners with the goal to ensure that WBU and other Organizations of Persons with Disabilities increase their influence in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. My goal is to make sure disability inclusion, accessibility and universal design are integrated in programs, practices and policies which steer how our cities and communities are developed over time. During my journey I have been working with key stakeholders at all levels, from the UN system, the disability rights movement, multi-stakeholder networks, cities and local governments, urban professionals, the private sector, academics, and other representative constituent groups. It really is inspiring to learn how global development frameworks in practice can serve as concrete tools to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at local levels.

Why is your appointment such good news for WBU and the disability rights movement?

In early 2020, I supported WBU and UN-HABITAT – the key UN agency for the New Urban Agenda – to formally collaborate and accelerate efforts around disability inclusion, accessibility, and universal design in its work. According to me, this shows and increasing willingness of UN Agencies to directly partner with Organizations of Persons with Disabilities. The partnership would not have been possible without the support from our key partners. This explains how WBU, as a global Organization of Persons with Disabilities, has shown great leadership within the urban development field. The appointment to SAGE is in my view a result of an increased recognition of persons with disabilities as both rights-holders and agents of change. If we really want to leave no one behind, it is critical for persons with disabilities to have a seat at the table to inform decisions, learn and contribute as experts in our own right. In terms of urban development, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the New Urban Agenda, are the right tools and global framework to make our cities and communities more inclusive. Although I will be serving in SAGE as an independent expert, with my specific base within the constituency of persons who are blind and partially sighted, I see this as an opportunity for me to support an increased interaction between key urban development stakeholders and the wider disability rights movement. During my journey I have realized that to make our communities more inclusive, it is more impactful to view accessibility with an intersectional lens, as a collective good and enabler. As a person with a disability, working for an Organization of Persons with Disabilities, I really want to influence how our communities are developed, and I trust that collective work to promote universal design is what will make all the big difference. This is something I will carry with me during my time in SAGE.

What could be the concrete benefits of your appointment as a SAGE member?

During this two-year appointment, I will offer a practical contribution both from my lived experience of disability, but also from my work with various stakeholder groups, networks, OPDs, and interaction with and understanding of the role of key urban stakeholders. I am joining a great SAGE team of leaders and experts in various fields, and I envision that my specific expertise can help increase the meaningful participation of OPD in the urban development sector. One first step in SAGE is to orientate myself on how it operates, and then identify how best I can support the team moving forward advising UN-HABITAT on the array of initiatives, including next year’s World Urban Forum.

More information:

UN-HABITAT press release on selection of new SAGE members

About WBU work on inclusive and accessible urban development

About the New Urban Agenda




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This post was written by Aurelien Dayde