Catalina Devandas

Executive Director

Catalina Devandas Aguilar is a Costa Rican lawyer with 20 years of international work experience, particularly with the United Nations (UN) system. Her work in the multilateral context, including the UN headquarters in New York and Geneva, began with her participation in the negotiation process of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from 2003 to 2006. Since then, she has engaged with the UN system as a civil servant, an external actor, and an independent human rights expert. 

Catalina worked for the World Bank, advising Latin American states on social inclusion and was also a human rights officer for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which gave her an insider’s view in the functioning of intergovernmental entities and their political context. She further sharpened her skills to work in diverse cultural and organizational contexts at the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, where she supported organizations of persons with disabilities, including indigenous peoples, to influence national and international processes through their interactions with local authorities, national governments, and the UN system. 

In 2014, she was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Catalina went on to conduct the first official visit as an expert on human rights to the Democratic Republic of North Korea. She was also appointed as Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, successfully leading 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, she has successfully led multilateral negotiations, leading to the universal recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment by the Human Rights Council. Catalina identifies as a woman with a disability; she is married and is a mother of three daughters.