|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
States Parties to Convention
on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
4th Meeting (AM)
Realizing Rights of Persons with Disabilities a Necessity Within Reach,
Says Conference Chair as Three-day Session Concludes
Delegates Hold Interactive Dialogue
With United Nations Entities on Implementation of Convention
“Achieving the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities is more than possible, it is within reach and it is a necessity,” the Chairman of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities declared today.
As the Conference concluded its three-day fourth session, Chairman Mårten Grunditz of Sweden emphasized that all the world’s people would “lose out” if the rights of persons with disabilities were not realized, in particular the rights to inclusion in the labour market and in public life.
He said the successful session had proved that the Conference was the premier forum for global discussion on disability issues, and the wide participation testified to the international community’s “great commitment” to making the rights of persons with disabilities a reality. The session had made even clearer how rich and useful a document the Convention truly was, he stressed, reiterating that all States that had not yet done so should consider ratifying the instrument and its Optional Protocol.
In that regard, international cooperation could, and must, be a “catalytic force” for more inclusive policies around, he continued, noting that a high-level meeting on disability and development was already being planned for the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly in 2013. The Conference’s next session could therefore be an important “check station” on the road to that critical event.
Ultimately, efforts to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities needed to be monitored, he said, adding that a “greater understanding” would be needed in that area come the Millennium Development Goals deadline year of 2015, or before. In the meantime, “we must continue to challenge, improve and perfect ourselves”, he concluded.
During an interactive dialogue on implementation of the Convention, the Conference heard from a diverse panel of officials from United Nations and associated entities: Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Jane Stewart of the International Labour Organization (ILO), speaking on behalf of the United Nations Development Group; Aleksandra Posaracm, Team Leader on Disability and Development at the World Bank; and Alana Officer of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Also on the panel were: Aiko Krairiksh, Social Affairs Officer and Focal Point for Disability in the Social Development Division of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Ibrahim Salama from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Diane Almeras, Social Affairs Officer with the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Gisela Nauk, Chief of the Social Policy Section in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); Jennifer Kargbo, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); and Patience Stevens of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
The panellists presented detailed explanations of the efforts undertaken by their respective entities, with Mr. Stelzer highlighting the support provided by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He said the upcoming sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly would have before it two reports of the Secretary-General prepared by the Department, one of which focused on how the Convention could transform the commitment of the United Nations to the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities on the ground.
Regional Commissions were working hard to answer calls to mainstream the concerns of persons with disabilities throughout all aspects of their work, according to their respective representatives. Ms. Almeras said ECLAC was collecting statistical data on the situation of that region’s 90 million persons with disabilities. Studies based on that data had revealed that, while there had been some improvements in legislation, education and employment, persons with disabilities had more work opportunities in the private sector than the public sector. There was also a clear gender gap, she said, adding that serious progress was needed in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, accessibility and personal mobility.
Joining the meeting via video link, Ms. Nauk said the Convention’s adoption had stirred momentum for the disability movement in the Western Asia region, and to date, 16 Arab countries had signed the treaty and 12 had ratified it, including 9 ESCWA members. But while they had enacted new laws and adopted action plans, they needed to do more, she said. Indeed, ESCWA Governments should not only address the socio-economic rights of persons with disabilities, they should also champion mechanisms to protect those rights. As for the Commission itself, it was galvanizing efforts to develop a regional inventory on disability data as well as policies to follow up on commitments made under the Convention and the Arab Decade for Disabled Persons.
One highlight of the discussion was the presentation of the landmark World Report on Disability, produced jointly by WHO and the World Bank. Ms. Officer said that despite the magnitude of the issue — an estimated 1 billion people around the world were living with some form of disability — awareness of and scientific information on disability issues were lacking. The Report stressed that very few countries had the mechanisms to address the barriers and challenges facing persons with disabilities.
She went on to state that, as a result of persistent obstacles such as negative attitudes and physical barriers in the design of buildings and in information and communications technology, the Report recommended that States should, among other things: enable access to all mainstream policies, systems and services; invest in specific programmes and services for people with disabilities; adopt national disability strategies and action plans; and involve people with disabilities.
The closing session also heard a rousing address by Ronald McCallum, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and of the group of Geneva-based United Nations human rights treaty bodies who presented the report on the Committee’s work for the past year, focusing on its resources and working methods. However, the main thrust of his address dealt with “the crisis facing the whole treaty body system”. Noting that the compliance rate of States submitting reports was at a low of only 30 per cent, he said his own five-year-old Committee’s compliance was even lower, adding that a backlog of reports was already hanging over its work.
He called on States parties nevertheless to continue to submit reports, and to help reduce the Committee’s heavy administrative burden by doing so in French or English, the two working languages of the United Nations. To further reduce the burden, the Committee had requested the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) to double its meeting time to two two-week sessions per year, he said. “We want to be more productive,” he stressed, adding: “We have only just begun.”
Returning to the question of resources, he pointed out that bringing persons with disabilities to meetings at Headquarters was more expensive than transporting members of other treaty bodies. The United Nations should ensure “fair and equal treatment” of Committee members by allocating sufficient resources so that all who wished to attend meetings could do so, he urged.
The Conference also heard statements by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Maldives and a representative of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
Participating in the interactive dialogue with United Nations entities were representatives of Brazil, Sierra Leone, Panama, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and Thailand.
The Conference also heard summaries of proceedings in the two round tables held during the session, with Thailand’s representative presenting the first, on “Realizing the Convention through international cooperation”, and Sierra Leone’s representative the second — “Ensuring effective and full participation in political and public life”.
Dian Richler of the International Disability Alliance presented the outcome of the civil society forum, held ahead of the Conference, on 6 September.
The Conference of States Parties will meet again on a date to be announced.
The Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities met this morning to conclude the work of its fourth session. The parties were expected to hear statements from observers to the Convention and hold an interactive dialogue with representatives of United Nations agencies and bodies, as well as the regional commissions. [For more information please see Press Releases HR/5068 and HR/5070]
Ms. MCGREGOR, of the International Coordinating Committee for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, reported to the Conference on key developments regarding domestic monitoring and implementation of the Convention. She reminded the States parties that Article 33 of the treaty required them to create independent mechanisms to assist in the protection, promotion and monitoring of relevant obligations. As such, there were now 67 such national human rights institutions accredited with the Coordinating Committee. However, 12 States parties had made no decision on creating such mechanisms.
Nevertheless, she said that, if current trends continued, more than 75 per cent of the national institutions would eventually be designated as independent monitoring mechanisms by their respective State. Less encouraging was the fact that only four States had given their designated national institutions additional resources to carry out their functions. On the work of the Coordinating Committee, she said its members were using innovative approaches to ensure effective monitoring. The Coordinating Committee noted with pleasure what she called the “landmark” decision taken by the Human Rights Commission in June that had firmly asserted the role that national human rights institutions played and welcomed the large number of States creating them. Yet, the Coordinating Committee regretted that its members and regional networks lacked official and independent status in the work of the Conference of States Parties.
THOMAS STELZER, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, provided an overview of the Department’s work and achievements since the third session of the Conference of States Parties. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs supported intergovernmental policy dialogue, including at the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission for Social Development, related to the rights of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in development. The forthcoming sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly would have before it two relevant reports of the Secretary-General prepared by the Department, one of which focused on how the Convention could transform the commitment of the United Nations to the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities on the ground. Those reports were available.
The Department of Economic and Social Affairs also sought to provide forums for stakeholders to exchange new ideas and develop strategic partnerships in the field of disability, organizing regular meetings and discussions within the Organization’s major bodies. It continued to support the work of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, including his work on monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. The Inter-Agency Support Group had finalized its joint strategy action plan, which would support the implementation of the Convention on the ground. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs also worked to promote accessibility within the United Nations itself, including through the work of the Inter-Departmental Task Force on Accessibility, and provided technical assistance response to requests of Member States, among other activities around the world.
JANE STEWART, of the International Labour Organization and speaking on behalf of the United Nations Development Group, stressed the support of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework in assisting Member States with their implementation of the Convention. The value added to the United Nations system by the Framework was reflected through the application of five programming principles: a commitment to a human rights-based approach to development; gender equality; environmental sustainability; capacity-building; and results-based management.
A United Nations Development Assistance Framework was prepared under the leadership of United Nations Country Teams and in full consultation with national stakeholders, she said. Therefore, it allowed room for both the mainstreaming of the rights of persons with disabilities in the achievement of national development priorities and the operationalization of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the development process, including through the creation of national road maps for mainstreaming disability issues in national development. It was clear that significant work was being done to implement the joint strategy and action plan of the Inter-Agency Support Group, which helped to put issues of the rights of persons with disabilities on the agenda of United Nations and to guide their work at the country level.
ALEKSANDRA POSARAC, Team Leader on Disability and Development for the World Bank, speaking also on behalf of the World Health organization (WHO), presented the agencies’ joint World Report on Disability. She said that removing the barriers persons with disabilities faced must be a part of the broader development agenda, and the Bank included disability issues in all its work — from education to conflict and natural disasters. She said the Bank used “universal” development principles as a way to ensure that disability concerns were integrated in all its initiatives. She said that the new Report presented the best scientific evidence available today on the status of persons with disabilities at the national levels and examined the barriers they faced and identified measures to overcome them.
Continuing on the Report, ALANA OFFICER, of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the survey presented the first new prevalence information on persons with disabilities since the 1970s. To that end, it noted that some 1 billion people worldwide were affected by some form of disability and that very few countries had mechanisms in place to address the barriers those people faced.
The pioneering report cited traditional and non-traditional barriers, such as negative stereotypes, the design of buildings and in information and communication technologies. As a result, she said that people with disabilities had generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. The report also highlighted good practices that could address the barriers and practical guidance for all stakeholders to learn from each other.
Among other things, the Report recommended that people with disabilities should be provided access to all mainstream services; that States should adopt national disability strategies and plans of action; and that States should support further research and training in the area. People should be consulted and involved in the design and implementation of those efforts. Finally, she said that WHO stood ready to do its part to address the barriers persons with disabilities faced, and was also prepared to assist States with policy design and implementation to that end.
AIKO KRAIRIKSH, Director of Social Development for the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said that the Asia Pacific region — as home to 60 per cent of the world’s population — also had the largest number of persons with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, that number currently stood at 650 million. Many of those persons continued to face both legal and “de facto” challenges, she said. Empowering social protection programmes were unavailable to many of them. The region needed to mainstream a disability perspective in general discourse and practices on inclusive and sustainable development.
ESCAP had a long-standing track record of tackling such challenges through advocacy, capacity-building and knowledge management, she said. Throughout two consecutive Asia and Pacific Decades of Disabled Persons — covering 1993 to 2012 — initiatives had made much progress, including the revision of India’s comprehensive disability law, in tandem with the principles and obligations set out by the Convention; the adoption of an anti-discrimination measure on disability by the Republic of Korea; and an amendment to China’s comprehensive law on disability prior to its ratification of the Convention. Japan, a signatory to the Convention, had started an effective harmonization process of national laws with the international obligations set out by the Convention.
An upcoming regional meeting, slated for October 2010, was expected to adopt a regional strategy on the issue for the period 2013-2022, which would provide a road map to ensure an inclusive and participatory process for consultations with persons with disabilities. “Working on disability issues is no longer an unavoidable cost for society, but a worthwhile investment for inclusive growth,” she concluded.
DIANE ALMERAS, of the Department of Social Affairs of the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that, in 2006, a number of delegations of ECLAC had called for the mainstreaming of disabilities, with a “cross-cutting approach”, in the activities of the Commission. This sparked the collection of statistical data, on the situation of the 90 million persons with disabilities in the region. Efforts carried out had led to the publication of three studies on the availability, collection and use of the data. That had been followed by a study on legislation and programmes put in place in Latin American countries and a situational analysis of the implementation of the Convention in the Caribbean subregion, which was conducted alongside non-governmental organizations, Government ministries and other stakeholders.
Results showed that, while some improvements had been made in the area of legislation, education and employment, persons with disabilities had more work opportunities in the private sector than in the public sector. There was also a clear gender gap, she said. Serious progress was also needed in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, accessibility and personal mobility. The results of the Caribbean surveys were presented at a recent subregional meeting, and participants underlined the need to urgently address the lack of coordination among the various stakeholders. More data collection was needed across the region, and special efforts were being carried out to confront that lack through a guidance note on data collection through censuses.
Also joining the discussion via video link, GISELA NAUK, Chief of the Social Policy Section of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said that disability, as a development theme, cut across all areas of the Commission’s work. The Convention was, therefore, of great value to its work, as it provided the body with the mandate and necessary tools to promote and protect the rights of one of the most disadvantaged and excluded population groups. The absence of reliable and comparable data on disability was widespread in all 14 ESCWA countries, thus hampering efforts to formulate disability-specific polices and legislation.
She went on to say that communicable diseases, malnutrition and chronic illnesses, though preventable, were the most reported causes of disability in the region. However, evidence suggested that disabilities due to road and work-related accidents were on the rise, and in many ESCWA countries, political instability and armed conflict had contributed significantly to the high prevalence of disability. In the majority of the countries, inadequate infrastructure and transport, institutional and budgetary constraints and insufficient public awareness remained the primary impediments to full integration of persons with disabilities. In addition, despite the launch of the Arab Decade for Disabled Persons — which was set to end in 2013 — disability was still not fully approached as a human rights issue.
In all that, she said, the Convention had stirred momentum for the disability movement in the region and, to date, 16 Arab countries had signed the treaty and 12 had ratified it. Among those, 9 were ESCWA member countries. While those countries had enacted new laws and adopted action plans, more needed to be done. Indeed, she said that ESCWA Governments should not only address the socio-economic rights of persons with disabilities, they should also champion mechanisms that protected those rights. As for ESCWA itself, she said the Commission would continue to support implementation of the Convention by advocating a rights-based approach to disability. It was also galvanizing efforts to develop a regional inventory on disability data and polices in order to follow up on commitments made under the Convention and during the Arab Decade for Disabled Persons.
JENNIFER KARGBO, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the response of the Africa region was premised on disability prevalence and the capacity of the countries to address their needs. It was clear that African people were affected by disabilities through a number of causes, including civil strife, prolonged wars, communicable diseases, domestic violence and natural disasters. It had been estimated that some 96 million people, or 10 per cent of the region’s population, dealt with some from of disability.
Continuing, she said it had also been estimated that, in Sub-Saharan Africa, some 55 to 90 per cent of persons with disabilities were unemployed. For example, that amounted to estimated loses of some 4.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Namibia, and 7.5 percent gross domestic product in South Africa. In addition, disability doubled the possibility of children not attending school in countries such as Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania. In response, the African Union had begun work on a Protocol that addressed the rights of persons with disabilities on the Continent. Once agreed and completed, it was expected that the instrument would be binding on all States parties.
She went on to highlight other instruments adopted by the African Union that could be applied to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, including the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child, which called on States parties to improve accessibility for disabled persons. Also, the African Youth Charter called on States parties to address the challenges faced by youths with mental and physical disabilities and to identify ways to eliminate obstacles that might preclude their full participation in society. All such efforts show that the African Union and the continent’s Heads of State were working hard to address the situation of persons with disabilities.
She went on to say that 20 African countries had added disability dimensions to their Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. As for ECA, it was playing its role and was continuing to mainstream disability in all its programmes, especially those dealing with social development and social integration. The Commission was also emphasizing the impact of disability on the education and participation of children throughout Africa. In addition, it had launched an internal examination of its own procedures, facilities, and programmes in an effort to ensure the effectiveness of its activities, in-house and in the field. Going forward, ECA would focus on building capacity and empowering all stakeholders to participate in monitoring and implementing the Convention. It would also continue to assist in promoting and designing effective policies to that end.
PATIENCE STEVENS, representing UN Women, said that the new body had been working to “flesh out its areas of focus and emphasis”. In the context of persons with disabilities, she said, women with disabilities faced particularly difficult challenges in all areas. Among those were violence against women, which was particularly prevalent among persons with disabilities, and the effects of war and conflict, which affected women with disabilities disproportionately. UN Women was already working to counteract such challenges, she said.
The promotion of leadership and participation of women — a major focus area for UN Women — would also focus on persons with disabilities. In the area of economic empowerment, UN Women hoped to take a lead within the United Nations system, and the economic empowerment of women with disabilities, in particular, must be a key component in that work. Budgets must be allocated to address those issues in an equitable way, she stressed. The issues being spoken about today were as relevant in the global South as in the North, and, as such, addressing them effectively would mean working in partnership with donors, civil society groups, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders all over the world.
IBRAHIM SALAMA, representing the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR), then listed some of the activities his office had taken to support the Convention over the last year. In the area of technical cooperation, at the country level it supported the implementation of the convention with over 20 human rights field presences providing assistance to States and other stakeholders. Such assistance included, but was not limited to, reviewing laws and policies; undertaking national surveys; reviewing practices related to the designation of national implementation and monitoring frameworks; convening workshops on the implementation of the Convention; and training civil society on monitoring that implementation.
In the area of supporting the implementation of the Convention, he continued, OHCHR helped to prepare meetings of the monitoring Committee; provided substantive activities to Committee members; assisted in the elaboration of general comments, including on legal issues; and others. Finally, in the area of developing knowledge and tools, OHCHR sought to help Member States to ratify and implement the Convention through the development of such tools. It prepared thematic studies at the request of the Human Rights Council and, in that regard, a fourth thematic study on the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life, including the right to vote, was due out in November 2011. The Office was also working towards publishing a Convention Legislation Handbook which would assist States reforming laws in light of the Convention.
When the floor was opened for discussion, Ms. STEWART emphasized that the impact of the global economic and financial crisis on development had been a major concern of United Nations agencies and their partners. She highlighted key United Nations-led initiatives being implemented at the country-level that were being monitored by United Nations Development Assistance Framework, including related to the social development floor.
The representative of Sierra Leone emphasized that, while her country was committed to addressing the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and to promoting their human rights, competing national priorities often meant that the country’s meagre resources were at times devoted to other matters. That also meant that keeping up with reporting responsibilities under the Convention were becoming increasingly difficult.
In response, Ms. Stewart concurred that funds were scarce for many countries and that even more were having trouble keeping up with the reporting schedule. She suggested that perhaps the United Nations Country Team in Sierra Leone and the ECA should work with the Government to address such challenges.
The representative of Senegal wondered what efforts were under way within UN Women to address the double challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities. Ms. STEVENS said the newly-established agency would continue to advocate for the strong rights-based approach set out in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was paralleled in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Turning to the broad lack of resources made available to address disability issues, she reminded the Conference that since everyone agreed that persons with disabilities had “rights” that must be protected and promoted, one way to perhaps get relevant programmes funded was to ensure that access to those rights was available to “all”. So, integrating disability rights into the broader rights-based development framework was critical to ensuring that the unique needs of persons with disabilities were considered right alongside other human rights issues.
RONALD MCCALLUM, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, then made a presentation on the work of the Committee over the past year, focusing on its resources and working methods.
In April 2011, the Committee had undertaken its first discussion with a country on a “list of issues”. That had been with Tunisia, he said, reminding delegates that the discussion had, in fact, been with a transitional government following that country’s recent revolution. Representatives of the Committee were, therefore, able to demand, directly, that persons with disabilities be included in the drafting of the new constitution. “It was extraordinary,” he said, adding that he hoped future “list of issues” discussions — the next of which was slated to take place with Spain — would be equally interesting and effective.
Mr. McCallum, who was blind, noted that he was also the Chair of the collective group of all Geneva-based human rights treaty bodies — an appointment which demonstrated the confidence of the international community. From his perspective in that role, he said, “the whole treaty body system is in crisis”. The compliance rate of States submitting reports was low, at only 30 per cent. In the Disabilities Committee, which was only five years old, compliance was even lower and a backlog of reports already existed. He called on States parties to continue to submit their reports, and to assist in reducing the heavy administrative burden faced by the Committee by doing so in French or English, the two working languages of the United Nations.
To further reduce the burden of work, the Committee had requested the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the General Assembly to double its meeting time to two two-week sessions per year. “We want to be more productive”, he stressed, adding, “we have just begun”. In terms of resources, he noted that bringing persons with disabilities to meetings at headquarters was more expensive than doing so for the members of other treaty bodies. He, therefore, called on the United Nations to ensure “fair and equal treatment” of Disabilities Committee members, by allocating sufficient resources so that all who wished to do so could attend meetings.
Responding to questions, Mr. MCCALLUM suggested that, despite the backlog, countries should submit their reports “as soon as appropriate” within the two year period. Pressing ahead was crucial for two reasons: it would allow States parties to have a productive dialogue with the Committee; and it would give national officials changed with compiling the report a detailed picture of the situation of persons with disabilities within their countries. “I promise you we will get through the reports as soon as possible [and] work as hard as possible,” he said, reiterating his call on the Secretariat and the General Assembly for more meeting time.
ASLAM SHAKIR, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that his country had ratified the Convention in 2010, and fully supported the purpose of that important instrument. He was proud to report that Maldives had made progress in the realization of its obligations under the Convention, and looked to build upon that progress — which included the ratification of a national disabilities act; the establishment of a national disability council designed to ensure consultation between advocates for persons with disabilities and Government officials; and stronger support for the work of relevant civil society organizations in Maldives.
Despite such progress, there was still much work to be done, he said. Maldives lacked capacity in the areas of knowledge, expertise, exposure and resources, and was thus hindered in moving forward on disability issues as quickly as it would like. It looked to the international community to work with his country in developing and implementing programmes and policies that protected and promoted the rights of persons with disabilities. More specifically, access to mainstream education for children with disabilities was an important area for review and improvement.
Speaking at the conclusion of the session, Chair MÅRTEN GRUNDITZ (Sweden) said that the wide participation of the international community in the current meeting testified to its “great commitment” to making the rights of persons with disabilities a reality. The session had made even clearer how “rich” and “useful” a document the Convention truly was, he stressed, reiterating the call to all States that had not yet done so to reconsider ratifying the Convention and its Optional Protocol.
Achieving the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities was more than possible, he said, adding, “it is within reach, and it is a necessity.” The entire world — people with and without disabilities — would “lose out” if the rights of persons with disabilities were not realized, in particular those of inclusion in the labour market and in public life.
In that regard, international cooperation could, and must, be a “catalytic force” that made policies around the world more inclusive. He noted that a high-level meeting on disability and development was already being planned to take place during the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly in 2013. The next session of the Conference could, therefore, be an important “check station” on the road to that critical meeting. Ultimately, efforts to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities needed to be monitored, he said. Come the Millennium Development Goal deadline of 2015 — or before — the world community must reach a “greater understanding” of what was needed in that area, he said. In the meantime, “we must continue to challenge, improve and perfect ourselves,” he concluded.
* *** *