Catalina Devandas Aguilar is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations. As Special Rapporteur, she works with the international community to realize the rights of persons with disabilities. Those rights were established in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
, and the international community has committed to disability as a development issue in the Sustainable Development Goals
and beyond. These instruments and many more show how quickly the world is changing in recognizing the equality of persons with disabilities. Catalina is working to support these efforts and make sure the results reach persons with disabilities themselves.
Catalina herself is a lawyer who has been working on achieving disability rights for many years. Guided by her own lived experience as a woman with disabilities, she started her advocacy in her native Costa Rica, and subsequently went on to serve with regional disability networks as well as different parts of the United Nations. In the negotiation of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, she played a role as part of the Costa Rica and then civil society delegations.
For her, disability is accompanied by dignity and pride. Including persons with disabilities in rights and development work must ensure full citizenship and a change in the way disability is thought about. An important part of this is attention to how disability interacts with other social identities, particularly in the cases of women and indigenous persons with disabilities.
Catalina lives in Geneva, Switzerland, with her husband and their three children.