19 July 2013
General Assembly
HR/5152

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

States Parties to Convention

on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

5th Meeting (AM)


As Conference of States Parties to Disabilities Convention Concludes,

 

President Tells Delegates that Lessons Learned Must be Implemented

 


Closing the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today, its President told delegations that the lessons learned over the last three days needed to be taken home and implemented.


Macharia Kamau ( Kenya) emphasized in his concluding remarks that the Conference relied on delegations making their voices heard in their capitals to ensure the full realization of the Convention’s provisions and of a sustainable future without discrimination, where disability was accepted as part of human diversity.


To help States parties push forward disability-inclusive development, United Nations bodies from across the system were trying to integrate the needs of people with disabilities into the services they offered, and representatives of the United Nations system had given presentations about their efforts during an interactive panel discussion.


Panellists addressing the Conference were Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Rosangela Berman Bieler, Chief of the Disability Section, Programme Division, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Aleksandra Posarac, Team Leader, Disability and Development, World Bank; Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction; Kazi Afzalur Rahman, Deputy Special Representative of the World Tourism Organization to the United Nations; Jahan Selim, Director for Poverty Practice of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Charles Radcliffe, Chief of the Global Issues Section in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Chair of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee; and Shuaib Chalklen, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development.


Describing progress made by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in carrying out its functions under the Convention and its Optional Protocol, Ms. Reyes said it had examined complaints from persons with disabilities, and while some had already been resolved, many more were still being addressed.  The Committee emphasized the need to finalize drafts, general comments and create working groups to examine the vulnerabilities of by women and girls with disabilities.


Mr. Radcliffe, speaking from a human rights perspective, said OHCHR was using the Convention as a framework for action.  Stressing the importance of accountability in ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities and special needs, he said OHCHR’s more than 20 field presences were working with States, national rights institutions and civil society to move forward obligations arising from the Convention.

Ms. Bas said the issue of accessibility had arisen in almost all presentations, and cited efforts made at Headquarters to ensure that persons with disabilities could participate in United Nations conferences.  Emphasizing the importance of making all parts of the United Nations accessible to all people, she said the construction of a technology centre that would allow persons with disabilities to access computers and other resources during the forthcoming General Assembly High-level Meetings on Disability and Development, needed an additional $30,000 in funding.


Other presenters tackled the issue of adequate standards of living and inclusive development from the specific perspectives of disaster risk reduction, tourism, Africa and children.


Ms. Bieler, presenting on behalf of UNICEF, said that protecting the rights of children with disabilities was integral to the Fund’s programming.  Calling attention to The State of the World’s Children report, which focused on disabilities, she said the last two years had been particularly fruitful, with the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities establishing a 240-member network to advocate at the global, regional and country levels.


Mr. Chalklen emphasized the importance of strengthening the voices of persons with disabilities in Africa, especially in international forums such as the United Nations.  Although more than half of African countries had ratified the Convention, they faced persistent challenges in the area of implementation, he said.


When the floor was opened to questions, several delegates responded to the point about the Convention’s status in Africa.  The representatives of Sudan and Senegal were among the speakers who underlined the importance of establishing equal opportunities for people with disabilities, while Kenya’s delegate asked about UNDP’s activities in Africa.


Mr. Selim responded by pointing to the monitoring and data-collection efforts made on landmine survivors in many parts of Africa, including Mozambique.


Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Panama, Honduras, Republic of Korea, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and Colombia.


Delivering statements as Conference concluded its general debate were representatives of Albania, Ecuador, Namibia, Malaysia, Estonia, Belgium, Japan, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Myanmar, Cuba, Indonesia, Cyprus, Uganda, Sudan and Sierra Leone.


Representatives of Rehabilitation International and Disabled People International also spoke.


On 23 September, the General Assembly will hold its High-level Meeting on Disability and Development under the theme “The way forward:  a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”.


Background


The sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities met this morning to conclude its work.


Statements


PETRIKA JORGJI ( Albania) said 4.2 per cent of his country’s population had a disability, and that number was rising, according to data.  Before the Convention’s adoption, public policies, programmes and services had focused on medical and humanitarian support for people with disabilities, but the Convention had created the conditions for their rightful inclusion in society.  In compliance with the Convention, the Government had drafted a law on inclusion, he said, that an inter-ministerial group was reviewing existing legislation with a view to harmonizing it with the Convention.  A national programme of action set out the basis for reform and outlined the measures to be taken, he said.


XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA ( Ecuador) said people with disabilities had a key role in diverse societies and in development.  Since 2007, Ecuador had recognized and promoted their rights, prohibiting constitutionally and legally any form of discrimination against them.  In 2009, a revolution had been declared for people with disabilities with the aim of ending exclusion and disrespect, he said.


WILFRIED I. EMVULA ( Namibia) said that his country’s commitment to people with disabilities had existed long before the drafting of the Convention.  The 1997 National Policy on Disability sought to improve their quality of life and to ensure that they enjoyed the same rights and opportunities as other citizens.  The 2004 National Disability Council Act provided for monitoring and implementation of the National Policy.  Following its ratification of the Convention, the Government had aligned domestic laws with its provisions, he said, pointing out, however, that gaps remained between policy and practice.  To help address them, Namibia hoped for “the explicit inclusion of disability in the emerging post-2015 development frameworks in order to create a genuinely inclusive society and development for all”.


MOHD NUR ( Malaysia) said his Government had been aggressively implementing programmes in health care, financial assistance and training opportunities.  To encourage the economic independence of persons with disabilities, the Government helped entrepreneurs with disabilities to empower their businesses, and it was also working to raise their standards of living and assisting low-income households.  He stressed the importance of social and economic empowerment, cooperation, skills training and rehabilitation.


VENUS ILAGAN of the non-governmental organization Rehabilitation International said that five years after the Convention’s entry into force, most persons with disabilities remained marginalized and unable to enjoy their rights.  Hence, an increased level of awareness was required regarding on disability issues.  He expressed concern at the lack of will to allocate resources, especially in the context of developing countries where funding was never enough to meet growing needs.  Rehabilitation International had the capacity to provide knowledge, experience and expertise through its global network, and to address gaps identified by the United Nations, he said.


TAAVI LAI (Estonia), associating himself with the statement delivered by the European Union delegation, said his country had come a long way since regaining independence from the Soviet Union 21 years ago.  Estonia’s Constitution and the Special Equal Treatment Act guaranteed protection against discrimination for people with disabilities.  A private company could be started online in only five minutes, voting in parliamentary elections could be done online and prescriptions could be renewed online, with medications to be picked up from any pharmacy primacy in the country, he said.  Those were just a few examples of Estonia’s e-solutions, which helped to reduce barriers and to build a more inclusive society.  The Government had also taken steps to reform the insurance system for people who had a reduced ability to work for various health reasons.  Reform was focused on services to prevent incapacity to work and to accommodate work environments suitable for people with disabilities, he said, adding that such a “paradigm shift” would secure better employment options for them, thus assuring them an adequate standard of living.


BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET ( Belgium) said that a specific article inserted into the Belgian Constitution stated that every person had a right to measures of empowerment, as well as cultural and economic integration.  Participation in political life by persons with disabilities was important, as it was linked to legal capacity, one of the key factors for effective implementation of the Convention, which ensured that they enjoyed their rights on “equal footing” with others, she said, adding that the justice and civil society sectors would play important roles in assuring those rights.


NAOTO HISAJIMA ( Japan) said that, since his country’s signing of the Convention, it had been working on institutional reform.  As a result of new regulations, the number of employees with disabilities in the private sector had increased by 4.4 per cent in just one year, he said, adding that the legal employment rate of persons with disabilities in that sector had been raised from 1.8 per cent to 2 per cent.  Emphasizing the great importance of international cooperation in promoting the empowerment of persons with disabilities in developing countries, he said Japan had made substantive contributions to policy development in the Asia-Pacific region.  The country also promoted disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction and management, an area of significant interest in its foreign policy.


SUL KYUNG-HOON ( Republic of Korea) said it was crucial to integrate people with disabilities and to provide them with social safety nets.  In the course of developing social protection measures, it was important to take into account the particular needs arising from disability.  Pointing to a pension system that tackled the income insecurity of the most severely disabled, he said his country was also enhancing the participation of people with disabilities in all sectors because they should not be mere recipients of social benefits.  Rather, their voices should be heard in policymaking, he said, adding that all processes should be disability-sensitive.


Mr. RIBEIRO ( Brazil) said the establishment of national goals for the purpose of improving the living conditions of persons with disabilities had proven effective in raising awareness on that specific issue.  A similar strategy could be used to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda.  It was necessary to eliminate barriers to the enjoyment of equal opportunities, she said, emphasizing the need to implement a profound paradigm shift under the perspective of human rights.  It was also important to promote subregional cooperation and to implement a technical cooperation programme in the context of development in the post-2015 period.


THANT SIN ( Myanmar) said that, while some progress had been made on the rights of persons with disabilities, unfortunately, they were still neglected in many parts of the world.  Calling on Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention, he said the latest data in Myanmar showed that 1.2 million persons lived with disabilities.  A five-year Government plan was being drawn up to promote the livelihoods of persons with disabilities.  Myanmar looked forward to passing a law that would pave the way for them to enjoy their rights, he said.  Despite the progress on the global level, much remained to be done on the national level, he said, adding that, as a developing country, Myanmar required technological assistance.


JAIRO RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ ( Cuba) said that assistance to people with disabilities had started with the revolution, evolving over the years from an approach whereby they were seen as social care objects to one in which they were seen as “subjects with warranties for social integration, considering their disabilities”.  Education facilities, including workshops, had been established to train students with disabilities so they could have better access to decent jobs, he said.  There was also greater participation in sports on their part, and the Government fostered their presence in the media.


Mr. SANUSI ( Indonesia) said the Convention was important for “a more prosperous and just twenty-first century”, noting that, while disability did not distinguish on the basis of economic class, it hurt the poor worst.  People with disabilities living in poverty needed access to tools, education, health and transport services to ensure their independence.  Stressing the importance of regional frameworks in advancing norms, he pointed to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Network for Disability Access, which had actively monitored elections to ensure the participation of people with disabilities.  Indonesia would host the third Asia-Pacific Meeting on Disability in 2017, he said.


POLLY IOANNOU ( Cyprus), associating herself with the European Union, stressed the importance of economic empowerment, rehabilitation and everyday living for people with disabilities.  The Department for Social Inclusion was the focal point for monitoring the Convention’s implementation in Cyprus, and the equality of people with disabilities was enshrined in legislation written in accordance with the treaty.  The country’s Thematic Technical Committee on Education and Training was evaluating students’ needs to ensure a smooth transfer from school to employment, and to ensure that people with disabilities were included in the workforce, she said.


KAGGYA BEATRICE NABULIME ( Uganda) outlined various Government initiatives to promote the rights of persons with disabilities, provide the basis for the enactment of laws and the development of policies to address their concerns.  On the issue of adequate standards of living and social protection, he said Uganda had strengthened its regional vocational rehabilitation centres, which equipped 300 people with employable skills.  The Government was also developing a policy programme to address concerns over access, quality and equity of education.  Specific aspects to be addressed included specialized instructional materials and equipment, support services, curriculum adaptation, assistive devices and capacity-building and assessment.  The Government had also established a savings scheme for persons with disabilities in eastern Uganda, he said.


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For information media • not an official record