(From Left to Right) UNDP's "Quick Guide to Working with Persons with Cerebral Palsy' and its creator, Kasunjith Satanarachchi
UNDP's "Quick Guide to Working with Persons with Cerebral Palsy' and its creator, Kasunjith Satanarachchi

Working together to ensure inclusion for young professionals with disabilities

Launched in 2018, the Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities is being implemented jointly by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the United Nations Development Programme. Attuned to the Sustainable Development Goals principles of leaving no-one behind, the talent programme aims to increase opportunities for young professionals with disabilities, to gain work experience with the United Nations and to increase their future employment opportunities with the development sector, including the United Nations.

In 2018, four candidates have already been selected for assignments with UNDP in Armenia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Ukraine.  

What I really like about the talent programme is that we are taking concrete, visible action towards a more inclusive UN workforce. We create dedicated career opportunities for young professionals with disabilities. This is something that did not exist before and I believe it will make a difference. We also raise visibility in UN offices and enable teams to realize first-hand that inclusion is often just about doing it. --Niels Lohmann, Team Lead, Capacity Development, UNV 

Kasunjith Satanarachchi is a UN Volunteer serving with UNDP under its Youth Lead programme and part of the talent programme in Sri Lanka. He has cerebral palsy. As one of his first deliverables at UNDP, Kasunjith produced a ‘Quick Guide to Working with Persons with Cerebral Palsy’.

A graduate of the University of Staffordshire with a Bacherlor of Law (LLB) Honours, he has been a passionate advocate for disability rights and  has engaged in freelance research for organizations like the Disability Organization Joint Front, Law and Society Trust as well the International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

In Sri Lanka, UNDP has launched a new programme – Making inclusion work: A Buddy System for Young Professionals with Disabilities – to facilitate more inclusion in the workspace.

This buddy project is being implemented to ensure Kasunjith’s inclusion in the work environment, in his case by colleagues assisting him in activities that are a challenge due to his disability. The buddy system has also contributed to a positive work atmosphere and helped eliminate stigma.

UNV and UNDP are planning to expand the talent programme in the coming years to a much larger number of offices and UN entities. Beyond the talent programme, UNV, as an agency that mobilizes over 6,500 volunteers for the UN system every year, is working to make its volunteer mobilization, recruitment and deployment inclusive and accessible for persons with and disabilities and special needs. Read more about the the UNV-UNDP initiative here.

This article was produced with the kind assistance of Bianca Amorim Santos.