It is a joyous moment for the international community to witness the unveiling of the Monument Wall to support the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Allow me to congratulate first of all the Government of China and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (BOCOG) and the International Paralympic Committee for making this extraordinary commemoration possible.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first comprehensive and universal legal instrument for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. The adoption of the Convention by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 was the culmination of many years of tireless efforts by the international community. Since the very beginning of the Convention process, the Government of China was one of the driving forces that led the treaty process to its successful conclusion.
The United Nations has enjoyed many years of strong partnerships with China and CDPF, and other regional and global leaders, to advance the rights of persons with disabilities around the world. For more than two decades, CDPF, under the eminent leadership of H.E. Mr. Deng Pufang, has been promoting the rights of persons with disabilities as an integral part of development in China, Asia-Pacific and worldwide.
The enjoyment of all human rights by all members of society – including the full participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development – goes to the very heart of the mission of the United Nations and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which I have the honour to head.
The United Nations is seeking to incorporate the power of sports in its endeavours to promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Sports can provide economic opportunities, generate employment and promote physical accessibility. International sporting events, such as the Paralympic Games, can raise awareness and stimulate action on accessibility of infrastructure, including transportation, communication systems and public space. The Millennium Development Goals – eight specific and ambitious commitments made by world leaders to improve the lives of the world’s people, especially the poorest – provide a framework to intensify the use of sports as means to advance development for all.
The Paralympic Games have long worked to harness the great potential of sports to contribute to global peace, prosperity and the preservation of human dignity. This dovetails perfectly with the work of the United Nations for peace, social progress and better standards of life, and harmonious relations among peoples and nations. Indeed, the United Nations and the Paralympic Games have the same fundamental mission – to serve humanity.
In challenging the obstacles in society and striving to develop their full potential as world-class athletes, Paralympic athletes show that the human spirit knows no bounds. I cannot think of a more committed, energetic and inspiring group of supporters of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially as we move into the critical implementation phase, when the words and commitments in the Convention must be translated into effective national policies and strategies, and continuous and concrete steps towards a just and equitable society for all.
On behalf of the United Nations, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for your strong support and wish you a most successful 2008 Paralympic Games.