Essl Foundation and UN in Vienna Mark 10 Years of Partnership

PeopleOther ♦ Published: February 21, 2023; 23:28 ♦ (Vindobona)

In 2013, the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Essl Foundation formed a partnership to achieve the UN's commitment to building a better world for people with disabilities. A partnership of 10 years between the United Nations in Vienna and the Essl Foundation has resulted in significant achievements for disability inclusion.

The Austrian-based non-profit Essl Foundation is cooperating with the United Nations in Vienna since 2013. / Picture: © UN United Nations and Austrian crossed flags by Vindobona

A project of the Austrian Essl Foundation, Zero Project aims to advance the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by finding and sharing innovative solutions that enhance the daily lives and legal rights of all people with disabilities. The Zero Project and its annual Conference in Vienna provide a platform to deliver on this promise.

Since 2014, the UN has hosted the Zero Project Conference nine times in Vienna. As one of the world's largest disability inclusion gatherings, ZeroCon attracted more than 5,000 participants from more than 100 countries. In this year's conference, the Vienna International Centre will host the event from 22-24 February. With the support of this Global Network, the Zero Project's unique research method relies on a collaborative, cross-sectoral platform approach.

As part of the Zero Project's efforts to further spread global good practices within the United Nations system, projects have been drafted and highlighted in publications such as the upcoming UN Disability and Development Report and the 2018 UN Flagship Report on Disability and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Aside from this, the research cycle of the Zero Project is aligned directly with the Sustainable Development Goals of education (SDG 4), employment (SDG 8), accessibility (SDG 10), information and communications technology (SDG 17), and independent living & political participation (SDG 16).

Marking the 10th anniversary

Ghada Waly, Director-General of UNOV and Executive Director of UNODC, and Martin Essl, founder, and initiator of the Essl Foundation, agree that the Zero Project and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are mutually beneficial. Among the highlights was last year's launch of the Zero Project database, which gathered over 700 good practices from more than 120 countries to improve the lives of people with disabilities worldwide.

Ghada Waly acknowledged this partnership between UNOV and the Essl Foundation and its 10th anniversary. Waly said that the UN in Vienna "must continue to strive for a world with zero barriers for people with disabilities" and "must ensure that their voices are heard at all levels of policymaking." These noble goals lie at the heart of the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no one behind”, as Waly put it.

Martin Essl showed his gratitude, saying, "Thanks to the support and help of the UN in Vienna, we have been able to empower people with disabilities around the world to live more independent lives, by sharing innovative global good practices and policies and furthering the United Nation SDGs."

Further, Essl expressed, that the Essl Foundations' "founding story is intimately tied to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities." Essl said when he saw the Convention come together and hundreds of signatories join, he understood the need to "create a global platform for all: free, inclusive, and accessible." As a result of community outreach, he noted that people with disabilities were interested in an entity that would highlight, collect, evaluate, and share solutions.

In the words of Volker Türk, High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations: "Human rights are the language of humanity.". By finding and sharing global good practices that help improve the daily lives of people with disabilities, the Zero Project is honoring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Türk elaborated. In Addition, Türk assured that "the UN Human Rights Office, which has a long-standing partnership with the Zero Project, will continue supporting its vital work towards a future in which no one is left behind and the rights of people with disabilities are respected in law and practice.”


Essl Foundation

Zero Project