“Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development,” was this year’s theme for the official commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities held in New York on 2 December.
Marking the 30th anniversary of the UN’s first observance of the International Year of Disabled Persons under the theme “Full Participation and Equality,” the event began with a vocal performance by students from the New York Institute for Special Education.
The morning’s programme included two panel discussions on the themes: “Towards inclusive development: improving data and statistics on disability” and “Mainstreaming disability in the global development agenda: experience in other development issues”. The afternoon program featured the United Nations Enable Film Festival. The first Film Festival was inaugurated in 2009 by the late Commissioner Matthew Sapolin of the NYC Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities, who was remembered before the films were screened.
During the opening ceremony, Deputy Secretary-General Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro addressed the attendees and international community at large, “Dear friends, our world today is mired in crisis, unemployment, energy scarcity, climate change, rising food prices, global financial instability. All of these problems tend to hit people with disabilities especially hard.”
Persons with disabilities make up an estimated 15 per cent of the world’s population. Almost one-fifth of them, or between 110-190 million, encounter significant difficulties. Furthermore, a quarter of the global population is directly affected by disability, as care-givers or family members.
Persons with disabilities encounter many disadvantages in their societies and are often subjected to stigma and discrimination. They remain largely marginalized, disproportionately poorer, frequently unemployed and have higher rates of mortality. Furthermore, they are largely excluded from civil and political processes and are overwhelmingly voiceless in matters that affect them and their society.
Despite these challenges, the Deputy Secretary-General encouraged, “People with disabilities can also hit back hard at this crisis helping all of us overcome them.”
Experience shows that when persons with disabilities are empowered to participate and lead the process of development, their entire community benefits, as their involvement creates opportunities for everyone – with or without a disability. Including persons with disabilities and their communities in developmental efforts is important to advance the development agenda.
The Director of UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development, Daniela Bas urged, “To ensure people with disabilities do not remain invisible, we must strengthen the foundation of development policies at all levels.”
It is imperative that development efforts around the world include disability issues when determining policies, programmes, as well as allocating funds for developmental programmes and projects. Mainstreaming disability in development is a strategy for achieving equality for persons with disabilities.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is both a human rights treaty and a development tool, provides an opportunity to strengthen developmental policies related to the implementation of internationally agreed development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), thereby contributing to the realization of a “society for all” in the twenty-first century.
The General Assembly in its most recent resolution 65/186, seeks to convene a High-Level meeting on disability in 2012, with a view to strengthening efforts to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts.
In Deputy Secretary-General Migiro’s closing remarks she called on the international community of persons with disabilities to, “Raise your voices, share your ideas, and reach for your goals. They are our goals too. Together we can realize them.”