For information only – not an official document

20 February 2023

The UN in Vienna and the Essl Foundation celebrate 10 years of partnership

VIENNA, 20 February (UN Information Service) – 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 people with disabilities. Article 32 of the Convention “recognize[s] the importance of international cooperation and its promotion… for the realization of the purpose and objectives” of the Convention. In support of this, the Zero Project has identified and collected over 800 innovative proven-concept projects from more than 120 countries, which have removed barriers for people with disabilities.

The Director-General of UNOV and Executive Director of UNODC, Ghada Waly, said: “As we mark the 10th anniversary of our partnership with the Essl Foundation working on the Zero Project, we must continue to strive for a world with zero barriers for people with disabilities. We must ensure that their voices are heard at all levels of policymaking. This lies at the heart of the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no one behind”. The Zero Project and its annual Conference in Vienna provide a platform to deliver on this promise. I look forward to continuing our important work with the Essl Foundation, as we engage with key sectors of society to develop accessible and innovative solutions for people with disabilities.”

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. This year’s conference takes place 22-24 February at the Vienna International Centre and can be followed online.

To further disseminate the spread of global good practices within the United Nations system, the Zero Project has actively contributed to the drafting and highlighting of projects within publications such as the forthcoming 2023 UN Disability and Development Report and the 2018 UN Flagship Report on Disability and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, the research cycle of the Zero Project is directly aligned to the respective SDGs from education (SDG 4), employment (SDG 8), accessibility (SDG 10), information and communications technology (ICT) (SDG 17), and independent living & political participation (SDG 16).      

The Founder and Initiator of the Essl Foundation, Martin Essl, said: “Our founding story is intimately tied to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. When I saw the Convention come together and hundreds of signatories join, I understood that we needed to create a global platform for all: free, inclusive, and accessible. Through community outreach, the feedback that came back was also clear: people with disabilities were interested in an entity that could highlight, collect, evaluate, and share solutions. 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."

Select United Nations agencies have also received Zero Project Awards for their work:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said: “Human rights are humanity’s common language. I applaud the Zero Project’s efforts in honouring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by finding and sharing global good practices that help improve the daily lives of people with disabilities. 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 in practice.”

In sum, the partnership between the UN in Vienna and the Essl Foundation has provided real tangible support for the full inclusion of people with disabilities, made possible thanks to the full support of the United Nations System. Both founder and initiator of the Essl Foundation, Martin Essl and Director-General of UNOV and Executive Director of UNODC, Ghada Waly agreed thatthe UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Zero Project are a joint success. They highlighted in particular last year’s launch of the Zero Project database, which has gathered  over 700 good practices from more than 120 countries to improve the lives of people with disabilities across the world.


The Essl Foundation is a non-profit foundation based in Vienna, Austria. The Zero Project is the largest project of the Essl Foundation and has awarded good practices since 2013. All Awards and global good practices mentioned, can be accessed through the Zero Project Database at:

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For information, please contact:

Martin Nesirky
Director, UN Information Service Vienna
Email: martin.nesirky[at]

Robin Tim Weis
Director, International Affairs, Zero Project
Email: r.weis[at]

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