Distinguished representatives of Member States and civil society organizations,
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to witness the conclusion of the work of this Committee which, by all standards, has been a major achievement. The text before us is truly of historical significance. It takes to a new height the process initiated two decades ago by the United Nations of moving from the treatment of persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity towards their consideration as “subjects” with rights who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives, as well as being active members of society.
This convention is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit social development dimension. It calls for a series of development interventions, and sets forth the principles on which those actions should be based to create the material conditions necessary for persons with disabilities to enjoy and exercise their rights.
Setting the course of development actions from a rights perspective is no instant solution. But this approach does have a significant advantage. Rights-based interventions are rooted in clear sets of principles and obligations that bring consistency, continuity, and strength to interventions, whereas piece-meal policy making, along with prejudice and market failures, tend to perpetuate the very barriers that impede persons with disabilities from full participation in society.
Disability is an issue which has long remained marginal to the development agenda. With few exceptions, existing development programmes that address disability are limited in focus and endowed with scarce human and financial resources. Furthermore, projects that benefit persons with disabilities are frequently conceived as a discrete area of activity.
Yet the exclusion, both economic and social, that features in the daily lives of persons with disabilities is a major, cross-cutting development issue for all development partners.
The Convention clearly recognizes this. Its Article 32 stresses that cooperation should aim to ensure that each and every development programme is inclusive of, and accessible to persons with disabilities. And it calls, from a development perspective, not for new areas of intervention, but for the integration of disability issues into national development strategies.
The Convention sets out norms and standards for designing, implementing, and monitoring programmes to improve accessibility, personal mobility, and access to inclusive health, education, and employment.
Thanks to the Convention, and to the tireless effort of this Committee, tomorrow looks much brighter for persons with disabilities. With countries’ ratifying the Convention, their rights will become part and parcel of their national development strategies, and they and their representative organizations will participate in policy and decision making in all matters of their concern.
Quite simply, the Convention calls for a change in the way that development actors do business, and that includes the United Nations. Development will have to be, from now on, truly inclusive. And the measure of the Convention’s success will be precisely in the changes in the lives of persons with disabilities in their national contexts.
I thank you and wish you well in your final deliberations.