On this International Day of Disabled Persons, we are celebrating achievements in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities. Such achievements have contributed to the enrichment of the lives of individuals and of society at large.
From its inception, the United Nations has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the lives of persons with disabilities throughout the world. The Organization's Charter affirms the principles of fundamental freedoms, the dignity and worth of human beings and the promotion of social progress and better standards of life. Beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, a number of international human rights instruments have set out the principles and established the foundations on which persons with disabilities can exercise their civil, political, social and cultural rights on an equal basis with other people.
More recently, the Assembly adopted the 1982 World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and, in 1993, the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. These are expressions of the political and moral commitments made by the international community to the creation of just and equitable societies.
The 1995 World Summit for Social Development and other recent United Nations conferences on global development issues have emphasized the need for people-centred sustainable development, with the eradication of poverty as a cornerstone. The Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development points out that people with disabilities form one of the world's largest minorities, more than one person in 10, and are too often forced into poverty, unemployment and social isolation. In developing countries, as many as 80 per cent of all disabled people live in isolated rural areas. Most of these individuals are the poorest in the community, with little or no access to health care or rehabilitation or support services. Even in developed countries, studies reveal higher proportions of disabled persons among the poorest strata of society.
- 2 - Press Release SG/SM/6116 29 November 1996
The United Nations has embarked upon "the second 50 years" to build a world where every citizen, regardless of disabilities, can make a difference in his or her own life, as well as in the life of the community of which he or she is an integral part.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award, carried out by the Roosevelt Institute, is one initiative that has been undertaken in pursuit of this goal. President Kim Young Sam of the Republic of South Korea, the recipient of the inaugural $50,000 award on behalf of his nation, arranged for an additional $1.5 million in funding in order to endow annual $7,000 awards to 10 Koreans with disabilities. President Kim also pledged that his nation would strive to be a model for other developing nations in its policies towards persons with disabilities.
In our continuing effort to build a just society for all, and in our common endeavour to fight poverty, we recognize that society needs all persons with disabilities to be active participants. We cannot afford to lose what they can contribute to the general welfare. Let this Day be a celebration of accomplishments and an inspiration for further efforts by, and on behalf of persons with disabilities.
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