BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE FIFTY-EIGHTH SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT
INTERNATIONAL DISABILITY AWARD TO
17 NOVEMBER 2003
Excellency Roberto Maroni, Minister for Social Welfare and
Labour of Italy, Mrs Annan, Excellencies, Distinguished
Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen:
global mandate of the United Nations gives it a key leadership
role in action to ensure the full participation and equalisation
of opportunity of persons with disabilities. The Universal
Declaration on Human Rights constitutes an important framework
within which the United Nations, its member states and the
international community as a whole, must respond to the
hopes and aspirations of all the world's people. As such,
the Declaration provides a sound basis for the United Nations
to work with, and on behalf of, persons with disabilities.
In proclaiming the rights of humankind, the Universal Declaration
does not distinguish between people having disabilities,
and those that do not.The Declaration is in fact clear in
its affirmation that "All human beings are born free
and equal in dignity and rights." Therefore, people
with disabilities should, by right, contribute to the fullest
extent in the development of their countries and societies,
and should expect an appropriate response to their needs
and well being.
United Nations benefits from the support of the World Committee
on Disability and other organisations in its efforts for
the full participation and equalisation of opportunities
for persons with disabilities. The Committee has contributed
in concrete ways to the initiatives of the United Nations
General Assembly to elevate world consciousness concerning
the rights of the persons with disabilities, in line with
the 1982 Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons.
As the international arm of the National Organisation on
Disability, itself a direct outgrowth of the International
Year of Disabled Persons, the Committee has proved itself
adept at matching its words with deeds.
as it did one year after the 1981 International Year of
Disabled Persons, the Programme of Action reflects the outcomes
of important initiatives taken during that year. Also, its
adoption in the year immediately preceding the proclamation
of the 1983-1992 Decade of Disabled Persons established
the Programme as an invaluable framework for action at the
national, regional and international levels.
Programme imbued our disability initiatives with a new sense
of urgency, and remains at the centre of international action,
even as consultations proceed on the matter of adopting
a convention on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
important that we recognise and celebrate successes that
meet the objectives we set ourselves in all areas of human
endeavours in this United Nations. Today, we recognize and
celebrate decisive and exemplary action the Government and
people of Italy have taken, to affirm the human rights and
fundamental freedoms of people with disabilities and to
greatly improve their lives, thus implementing the objectives
of the Programme of Action.
Maroni, I am pleased to be part of this celebration. I commend
the Government and people of Italy for the considerable
gains that have been made in this area. I congratulate Italy
on receiving the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International
Award, presented jointly by the World Committee on Disability
and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. This award,
given in the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man of
strong courage and determination, is also a tribute to him.
Roosevelt transcended disability to provide, from his wheelchair,
distinguished leadership to his country for more than a
decade, to influence the peace after the destruction of
World War II, and to contribute significantly to the vision
that has evolved into the United Nations. He stands as an
inspiration for people with disabilities, their families
and organisations and as an example to the world of what
can be achieved when equal opportunities are provided for
more than ever, our disability initiatives need to be imbued
with the spirit of President Roosevelt. The stark reality
is that some six hundred million people in the world are
living with disabilities, eighty five percent of them in
say with any degree of certainty that we will decrease the
number of people with disabilities, when we consider the
number of injuries that occur each day, including from accidents
in the home, on the job and on the road; from incessant
as well as intermittent conflicts and war; and from deadly
landmines and terrorism. When we consider, also, the crippling
effects of deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS and birth defects
the need to give new impetus to the promotion and protection
of the rights of disabled persons becomes self-evident.
The needs are particularly acute in the developing world.
is, however, being made. Attitudes are changing, tolerance
is taking root, and the space is increasingly being made,
to the extent possible, for the disabled to articulate and
realise their hopes and aspirations, including participating
in nation building. Disability issues are also being incorporated
into national development plans.
The Programme of Action is in common language we all understand.
Let us use it to the greatest effect in keeping our commitment
to ensure the full participation and equalisation of opportunities
for disabled persons. This is the objective of the United
Nations, an objective supported by the World Committee on
Disability, and one to which the Government and people of
Italy have given exemplary effect.