3 December 2008

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, in New York, 3 December:

This year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities falls just a week before the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We are commemorating both under the theme, “Dignity and justice for all of us”.

There is a lot to celebrate this year.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force in May.  We achieved this milestone by making sure that persons with disabilities were involved in all aspects of our life.  They were the leaders, and I commend them for their success.  The first Conference of States Parties took place just last month.

The United Nations remains committed to promoting accessibility in all aspects of society and development.  Accessibility is a goal in and of itself, and a means to achieve other goals.

Accessibility has many aspects.

It means access to the Internet and communications technologies.

It means political access.  The General Assembly has stressed that to achieve the Millennium Development Goals we must include persons with disabilities in all processes.  I agree fully.  We should do this with respect to all our international goals -- not just in development and human rights, but peace and security as well.

And of course, accessibility means physical access.  And that includes our Headquarters complex.  I share your frustration, and sometimes I feel ashamed, at how difficult it can be to navigate our building here in New York.  We are working hard to change that.  The Capital Master Plan -- the renovation of our Headquarters -- will bring our facilities up to the latest standards of accessibility.  You will see major improvements in access to conference rooms, offices, entrances, elevators and bathrooms.  We will achieve this by rebuilding rooms, providing new facilities, changing doors, adding ramps and upgrading fixtures.

These measures are all long overdue.  I look forward to celebrating this important International Day in the near future in a building that is much more accessible to all.

This morning’s seminar will explore how digital accessibility can promote the Convention.

There will also be a multimedia presentation by the United Nations Mine Action Service on disability rights advocacy in relation to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

After that we can enjoy the music of artists from Australia and Hungary.

Our musical guests embody the spirit of empowerment.  Tamas Erdi and Rudely Interrupted are renowned in their own right.  I am sure that their performances will add another important dimension to this commemoration, highlighting the talents of artists with disabilities and their contributions to society.

I now invite His Excellency Ambassador Robert Hill of Australia to introduce today’s performances.

[Ambassador Hill gives brief welcoming remarks.]

Thank you very much.  That concludes the opening of this international observance.  I now ask His Excellency Ambassador Luis Gallegos, the former Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee that drafted the Convention, to start the seminar on digital accessibility.

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For information media • not an official record