Catalina Devandas

Executive Director

Catalina is the Executive Director of the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund since August 2022. She rejoins the organization after having worked there from 2009-2014 supporting organizations of persons with disabilities from the Global South, including indigenous peoples, to influence national and international processes through their interactions with local authorities, national governments, and the UN system.

Appointed as the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina served in this role from 2014-2020. She conducted several country visits, including the first official visit as an expert on human rights to the Democratic Republic of North Korea. During her tenure, she led the process that culminated in the adoption by the Secretary General of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS), a cross-cutting strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the organization under the commitment of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind. In her last role as Ambassador Permanent Representative of Costa Rica, Catalina successfully led multilateral negotiations, resulting in the universal recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment by the Human Rights Council, and in an important budget reform of the International Organization on Migration.

Earlier in her career, Catalina worked as a Human Rights Officer at the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York and worked for the World Bank, advising Latin American states on social inclusion. She currently serves on the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees. Catalina identifies as a woman with a disability; she is married and is a mother of three daughters.