PANEL DISCUSSION ON 21 NOVEMBER TO FOCUS ON DISABILITY

18 November 2002
Note 5764

PANEL DISCUSSION ON 21 NOVEMBER TO FOCUS ON DISABILITY

18/11/2002
Press Release
Note 5764


                                                            Note No. 5764

                                                            18 November 2002


Note to Correspondents


PANEL DISCUSSION ON 21 NOVEMBER TO FOCUS ON DISABILITY


A panel discussion on Thursday, 21 November at 10:30 a.m. in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium at United Nations Headquarters will mark the observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, 3 December.


Panellists will include Luis Gallegos, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations; Traci Walters, National Director, Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (CAILC); Johan Schölvinck, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); and Elissavet Stamatopoulou, Deputy to the Director, New York Office, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).


The theme for this year’s observance -- “Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods” -- highlights the link between these two principles and their role in development and in achieving full participation and equality by persons with disabilities in all aspects of life.


Persons with disabilities are able and willing to contribute to the economic, political and cultural life of their communities, but still face many barriers that must be eliminated to ensure that they can participate to their fullest potential in society and all aspects of life.


The United Nations maintains that the concerns of persons with disabilities must be addressed if both human rights and development policies are to be effective.  A “universal design” approach should lead to the planning and creation of environments that meet the needs of the entire population.  From a human rights perspective, persons with disabilities should participate in formulating all policies and programmes dealing with disability; they should also be involved in decision-making related to development, in contributing to development efforts, and in equally sharing the results of development.  From this viewpoint, disability issues are not the concern of a special group, but a prerequisite for advancing both the human rights of all people and the development needs of a country.


The General Assembly has stressed the significance of sustainable livelihoods of persons with disabilities and identified three priorities for action to equalize opportunities:  accessibility; social services and safety nets; and employment and sustainable livelihoods.  Achieving sustainable livelihoods requires a continuum of interrelated measures, including participation in labour markets; investments in human resources development, such as vocational training, education and social services; and legal requirements for rehabilitation services to further social integration.

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                                                            18 November 2002


To varying degrees, persons with disabilities have been prevented -- or restricted -- from making valuable social and economic contributions to their families, communities and societies.  Segregated care and custodial care systems, associated with added costs, have proven to be counterproductive because they often prevent people with disabilities from gaining social and economic access to self-reliance.


Policies and strategies to bring persons with disabilities into the social and economic mainstream are increasingly recognized as superior from both an economic and a social perspective.  Strengthening capacities of persons with disabilities to make economic contributions furthers their social integration while reducing expenditures on custodial care and specialized services.


Persons with disabilities should be beneficiaries and decision-makers in social life and development.  This goal emphasizes individual and innovative choices and participation of persons with disabilities in their personal and community life.  By focusing on the unique talents of individuals in the movement to promote independent living and sustainable livelihoods, and by recognizing the right of persons with disabilities to self-support, decent work, dignity, respect, self-reliance and self-determination, communities around the world will be able to strengthen their economic, social and cultural advancement.


The International Day of Disabled Persons, 3 December, was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1992 (resolution 47/3).  The Day marks the anniversary of the General Assembly's adoption in 1982 of the World Programme of Action concerning Persons with Disabilities.  The annual observance of the Day aims to increase awareness and understanding of disability issues and trends, and to mobilize support for practical action at all levels, by, with and for persons with disabilities.


For information, please visit the United Nations Persons with Disabilities Internet site, at www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/disid2002.htm, orcontact Akiko Ito, Focal Point on Disability, Division for Social Policy and Development, DESA, Tel. (212) 963-1996, e-mail ito@un.org.


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For information media. Not an official record.