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Communications and UN Sustainable Development Goals

A colorful grid lays out all of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals.

Communication is vital to life, yet it is largely ignored as a disability. The World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability estimates that roughly one billion people around the world are living with some form of disability. However, the authors of the report also acknowledge that people with communication disability may not be included in this estimate, despite the fact that they encounter significant difficulties in their daily lives.

Communication disability is significant and can affect every aspect of a person’s life.

The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals provide us with a unique opportunity to address this formidable reality. These 17 goals are set by the UN General Assembly as part of resolution 70/1 “Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Some key sustainable development goals (SDGs) are:

  • SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere; with 11% of the global population living in poverty and an estimated 767 million people living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day.
  • SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages as health care is not accessible for many.
  • SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all as access to quality education remains a challenge for many.

Communication disability is significant and can affect every aspect of a person’s life, from an individual’s ability to engage in gainful employment to engaging in education and even accessing health care, relating specifically to goals 1, 3, and 4.

Further to the adoption of the goals in 2016 by the international community, many developed economies committed to support the implementation of the goals both domestically and internationally, providing a clear impetus for a truly global effort to tackle these issues. The International Communication Project (ICP) believes that global efforts to implement the SDGs (in particular SDGs 1, 3, and 4) should include initiatives to address communication disability.

To make the case, ICP’s Policy and Evidence Group has prepared a paper, The Importance of Speech, Language and Communication to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: A Summary of Evidence. This paper is a consolidation of evidence, highlighting the global need to address communication disability and demonstrates its relationship with goals 1, 3, and 4. The paper is to be released shortly by the ICP.


Written by Najmul Hussain, a policy advisor at the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Hussain holds a Master of Laws in Diplomacy and International Law from Lancaster University.

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