Zero Project and the United Nations

Celebrating 10 years of partnership

The United Nations in Vienna and the Essl Foundation are proud to celebrate their 10-year partnership on disability inclusion. Since 2013, the United Nations in Vienna through the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Essl Foundation, have been working together to realize the United Nations’ commitment to building a better world for people with disabilities. 

Driven by a mission to advance the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Zero Project – a project of the Essl Foundation – finds and shares innovative solutions that improve the daily lives and legal rights of all persons with disabilities. Article 32 of the CRPD, “recognize[s] the importance of international cooperation and its promotion… for the realization of the purpose and objectives” of the CRPD. In support of this, the Zero Project has identified and collected over 800 Innovative Solutions from over 120 countries, which have removed barriers for persons with disabilities.

Strategic cooperation

For the Essl Foundation and the Zero Project, the partnership with UNOV/UNODC is embedded in a broad and strategic cooperation with the United Nations: 

  • The Essl Foundation has consultative status with ECOSOC since 2014, with access to not only ECOSOC, but also to its many subsidiary bodies, and to the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.  

  • Since 2012, the Zero Project organizes several Side Events at annual Conference of State Parties of UN DESA in the UN Headquarters in New York, also at Side Events of meetings of the OHCHR in Geneva. 

  • The Zero Project was invited to join various joint activities with diverse United Nations agencies, like in the consultation process for the Sustainable Development Goals in Paris 2014, at the UN Habitat Conferences in Quito (2016), Nairobi (2015) and WUF in Katowice (2022).  

  • The Zero Project is in constant cooperation with the ITU, the ILO Global Disability Network, UNDP, OHCHR and WHO, related to mutual projects, publications, and Conferences. 

  • The Zero Project contributed to United Nations publications, such as the 2018 UN Flagship Report on Disability and Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, over 65 global good practices were collected, analyzed, and submitted to the 2023 UN Disability and Development Report, which will be published in June 2023 during COSP16. These contributions are complemented by the active assistance in the 2016 Good Practices of Accessible Urban Development report published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 

United Nations and the Zero Project Conference

The Zero Project Conference has been hosted at the UN in Vienna nine times since 2014. In that time, ZeroCon attracted more than 5,000 participants from over 100 countries, making it one of the largest international disability inclusion gatherings in the world. Read more about this year's conference here

United Nations Zero Project Awardees

  • In 2023 the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) was recognized for its inclusive work that put together an election policy toolkit for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • In 2020 the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was recognized for its inclusive work to mainstream primary schools in Montenegro by producing DAISY-Textbooks that have visual and audio options enabling children with disabilities to follow more easily and to study alongside their peers.
  • In 2019, the International Telecommunication Union, Regional Presence Europe (ITU), was recognized for its prescient work in creating the world’s first internationally recognized standard for accessible audio navigation.
  • In 2019, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), was recognized for its legislative work that allowed for copyright exceptions to make books accessible for the blind.