Millennium Development Goals Framework Overlooked Disability Issues, Conference of States Parties Told during Panel Discussion

18 July 2013
HR/5151

Millennium Development Goals Framework Overlooked Disability Issues, Conference of States Parties Told during Panel Discussion

18 July 2013
General Assembly
HR/5151
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

States Parties to Convention

on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

Millennium Development Goals Framework Overlooked Disability Issues,

 

Conference of States Parties Told during Panel Discussion

 

Delegations Share National Perspectives as General Debate Continues

Many international development frameworks, including the Millennium Development Goals, overlooked disability, and the post-2015 period must provide equal opportunity for every person, Israel’s Permanent Representative said today as he co-chaired a round table discussion on disability-inclusive development.

As the sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities held its second round table, Carlos Enrique García González, the other Co-Chair and Permanent Representative of El Salvador, said that the needs and dreams of persons with disabilities were addressed not only in the post-2015 development agenda, but throughout the United Nations process for ensuring equality, democracy and liberty on the basis of respect for human rights and the right to development.

The following panellists presented different perspectives on the issues:  Per-Anders Sunesson of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden; Stefan Culik of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic; Antonio Jose Ferreira, National Secretary for the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of Brazil; Diana Alarcon of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Setareki Macanawai of the Pacific Disability Forum; and Anika Rahman Lipy of the Centre for Disability in Development.

Ms. Alarcon discussed international efforts to achieve inclusivity, saying that the contours of the post-2015 development framework were being mapped in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations SystemTask Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the United Nations Development Group’s global, national and thematic consultations.  The experience of the Millennium Development Goals would inform the future agenda, but the new goals would be centred on human rights, equality and sustainability, she said.

Mr. Culik described how Czech national disability policies were integrated into a European Union-wide approach.  All European Union member States had “their own way” of working towards equal opportunities for people with disabilities, and in that regard, diversity could and should be a source of ideas, information and guidance to policymakers, he said.

Mr. Macanawai’s presentation featured a regional dimension as he discussed the work of the Pacific Disability Forum, whose mission was to improve the situation of the disabled in Pacific Island countries through capacity-building.  He praised the efforts of the Australian Government Overseas Aid Programme, “AusAid”, as an example of effective disability-inclusive development work in the region.

Other panellists discussed their national experiences of promoting inclusivity and the policies enacted in efforts to that end.  Mr. Sunesson, discussing Sweden’s experiences, underlined the importance of political ambition in breaking down obstacles.  Persons with disabilities should be seen as citizens with rights like anyone else, he emphasized.  While goal- and priority-setting had been vital to success, obstacles remained, he said.

In the ensuing discussion, an official representing the World Organization for Intellectual Property (WIPO) suggested the adoption of the Treaty of Marrakech, which, he explained, would facilitate access to published works for visually impaired people.  The Treaty encouraged the cross-border movement of such works, he said, calling on Member States to ensure its full implementation.

Costa Rica’s representative voiced his concerns as to whether broad public policies aimed at alleviating poverty benefited persons with disabilities, wondering if it was not better to focus on specific programmes aimed at that group and tailoring solutions according to age, gender and other aspects.

Also today, the Conference continued its general debate, with several delegations describing their countries’ efforts to improve the living standards and employment prospects for persons living with disabilities.

The United Kingdom’s representative said the 2012 Paralympic Games had had a massive positive impact on public attitudes towards disabled people.  The Government was committed to delivering a tangible and lasting legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for disabled people.

Iraq’s representative discussed the particular challenges that his country faced with regard to people with disabilities, which were linked to wars associated with the previous regime and the lengthy period of unrest during which many terrorist bombings had occurred.  He said compensation schemes were in place for amputees, as were significant efforts in the field of prosthetics.

Guinea’s Minister for Social Affairs pointed to her country’s role as President of the West African Confederation of Persons with Disabilities, describing the major role it played in helping signatories to the Convention in that subregion.

Also speaking during the general debate were representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Jamaica, Bulgaria, Greece, Russian Federation, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Luxembourg, Canada and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 19 June, to conclude its work.

Background

The sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities met this morning to continue its general debate.  It was also expected to hold a round table discussion on “Disability-inclusive development in national, regional and international processes”.

Statements

AHMED ABUL KHEIR ( Egypt) stressed that, with 2015 approaching, it was critical to take into account the unfinished agenda of the Millennium Development Goals.  Disability issues were among the major issues that must be addressed, and it was to be hoped that the forthcoming high-level meeting would serve provide an opportunity to fulfil that aim.  On the national level, Egypt’s main priority was to empower persons with disabilities economically, socially, politically and culturally, including through their integration into society as active participants in education, health, housing, vocational training and employment, without discrimination or marginalization.  In that regard, he highlighted recent developments such as the establishment of training programmes to enable media to raise awareness of disability issues; the allocation of 5 per cent of jobs to persons with disabilities; and the development of community-based initiatives, rehabilitation and capacity-building programmes for women and girls in particular.

Mr. MUHSIN (Iraq) said his countries disabled population had special needs because of the special circumstances in which a large proportion of their disabilities had been created ‑ the wars caused by the previous regime as well as terrorism.  Iraq sought to enhance the social, economic and cultural lives of people with disabilities and several institutional and legal provisions were in place for that purpose.  The Government had created a transitional justice mechanism to meet their needs, and compensation was available for amputees and other victims of terrorism.  Additionally, significant efforts had been made in the field of prosthetics, and social safety nets as well as medical treatment were available at Government expense, he said.

Ms. COUMBASSA, Minister for Social Affairs of Guinea, pointed to her country’s role as President of the West African Confederation of Persons with Disabilities, saying that it had played a major role in helping signatories to the Convention in the subregion, in addition to having supported the pan-African seminar to raise awareness of the Convention.  However, Guinea had faced a difficult sociopolitical situation between 2008 and 2011, which had led to a pause in its pursuit of the Convention’s aims, she said.  Outlining the mechanisms and strategies enacted for the economic protection and social empowerment of persons with disabilities, she said they included several educational and employment projects, as well as a national campaign to raise awareness of the Convention.

Ms. AL-HADID (Jordan) said that, through joint efforts with relevant parties and authorities, her country was fully engaged in removing all barriers to the participation of persons with disabilities.  Providing them with opportunities to engage in public life represented the basis for achieving a just society, she said, adding that Jordan had made great advances by stressing equality and non-discrimination.  The Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities coordinated with different partners to standardize pursuits aimed at enhancing the quality of life of persons with disabilities.  However, challenges remained in the provision of services, she noted.

Mr. TOLEDANO (Mexico) said that, seven years after the Convention’s adoption, ensuring that the nearly 8 million Mexicans with disabilities enjoyed an improved quality of life remained his country’s priority.  But that was nothing new in Mexico, since Mexico had for more than 30 years been working with individuals and organizations to assure the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Convention’s adoption had seen a turning point in national policies, having inspired substantial policy progress.  Much remained to be done, however, as high levels of discrimination persisted, he said.  A national agenda set to begin in April 2014 outlined policies for years to come on combating poverty, ensuring proper nutrition and the rights of indigenous persons with disabilities.  Mexico was also conducting specific actions in its “crusade against hunger”, the aim of which was to make low-cost food available, he said.

Ms. RICHARDS (Jamaica) said she was not oblivious to the myriad challenges of ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoyed all the rights to which they were entitled.  Despite the challenges, Jamaica had focused on education and funding to ensure the economic independence of persons with disabilities, she said.  While the country was not at the end of the road, it was taking concrete steps in the right direction.  Echoing the concerns of other speakers, she said that persons with disabilities continued to face multiple forms of discrimination and had been “invisible” in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

STEPHAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said that his country’s legal framework for achieving equality and full participation for persons with disabilities was in line with the national experience and best practices at the European Union level.  As part of a national action plan enacted following Bulgaria’s ratification of the Convention, the country had established coordination and monitoring mechanisms for its implementation, as well as capacity- and knowledge-building mechanisms at the administrative level.

MICHEL SPINELLIS (Greece) said that while conditions for many of the world’s most vulnerable groups improved in the second half of the last century, persons with disabilities continued to face discrimination.  Greece had allocated funds to ensure that disabled children had access to schools, and had established programmes to tackle disability at the municipality level.  Much crucial work still remained to be done, especially for women and children.  Lack of funding was only an excuse to avoid making the effort, he said.  Disability had been left out of the Millennium Development Goals, but that was no longer acceptable going forward to the post-2015 sustainable development framework, in which it must be treated as a cross-cutting issue.

Mr. LEKAREV (Russian Federation) said that in the time leading up to his country’s ratification of the Convention, amendments had already been adopted on enhancing access to employment and health services.  Following the ratification, work on the Convention’s practical implementation had been conducted with financing amounting to $3 billion.  The Russian Federation had seen a substantial increase in the number of educational institutions, he said, adding that pension sizes had been enhanced.  The country was also working to increase the visibility of persons with disabilities and to boost their continued integration into society.

GIZEM SUCUOGLU (Turkey) said his Government would put a national action plan in place to enhance data collection efforts.  Measures such as the provision of free transportation and the dispatch of teachers were currently being implemented.  Accessibility was also important in terms of making public buildings, roads and sidewalks universally accessible, as was combating discrimination and creating an inclusive society.  Turkey was funding national awareness-raising campaigns on how to uphold the human rights of persons with disabilities, and through incremental legal and practical steps made since the 1980s, the lives of persons with disabilities had vastly improved, he said, emphasizing the role of civil society, the private sector and the media in that regard.

Mr. HESS (Costa Rica) said his county had enacted a new law recognizing sign language as a mother tongue.  In terms of labour and employment, the Government had implemented a programme that increased labour opportunities for youth with disabilities.  A community-based project focused on development strategies was being carried out with the cooperation of Japan and Spain, thereby fostering South-South and triangular cooperation, he said.

Mr. EL GUENOUNI (Morocco) said his country’s Constitution prohibited discrimination, which in turn facilitated the establishment of a new normative system to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities on the legal and legislative levels.  On the programmes level, the Government was developing an action plan that would start in 2014.  National research and surveys, as well as the census to be held in 2014, would facilitate the development of a plan to deal sensitively with persons with disabilities after 2014, he said.  Morocco’s first report on its implementation of the Convention would reflect the status of people with disabilities as well as all efforts made to advance their rights.

Mr. GUZMAN JARA (Peru) said his Government had implemented all legislation relating to the Convention, which was a major step forward in terms of the legal and administrative procedures in place.  Central Government ensured there was a national system for the integration of persons with disabilities, and a body called CONADIS devised public policy to facilitate their employment in the public and private sectors.

Mr. JAEGER (Luxembourg) said each year of his country’s five-year programme of action was marked by a different focus, and empowerment was the theme for 2013.  Laws had been passed to provide social and economic protection for persons with disabilities, and the Service Life Academy provided training to those with disabilities.  He said the first of two major projects involved replacing the supervision and guardianship of persons with disabilities with a system of support, while the other sought to ensure full building accessibility.

STEPHEN THROWER (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, said his country’s disability strategy emphasized cross-sector partnerships and included a detailed action plan that captured efforts by the Government and beyond to improve the situation of persons with disabilities.  Recognizing that most policies and programmes were delivered locally, a toolkit was being developed to get local data to complement national statistics, he said, emphasizing that the Government was committed to delivering a tangible and lasting legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for disabled people.  “The Paralympic Games had a massive positive impact on public attitudes towards disabled people,” he stressed, going on to describe the launch of a two-year campaign that urged employers to employ disabled people.

NANCY MILROY-SWAINSON (Canada) pointed out that persons with disabilities had historically been a largely untapped sector of the labour force.  However, through its investments, Canada was working not only to help them reach their full potential, but also to invest in the country’s long-term prosperity and growth.  However, Governments alone could not do that.  She touched upon a new initiative aimed at helping national programmes to better match labour market needs with employment opportunities for persons with disabilities by providing more demand-driven training solutions for them.  Programmes like the Opportunities Fund provided funding to employers so they could hire persons with disabilities who were able to work but had not found jobs.  On the international level, Canada had invested $350 million between 2001 and 2011 on development programming for disability issues, including preventative health interventions and inclusive education, community-based rehabilitation, skills training and access to employment for persons with disabilities.

DRAGANA ANĐELIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said her country had ratified the Convention without reservations in March 2010.  With a view to strengthening social inclusion, it had also adopted a disability policy.  Equality had been secured through a law prohibiting discrimination, which made it possible for a victim to protect his or her rights through the judicial system.  In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina was promoting the social and cultural inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in political life as well as decision-making processes.  They were now recognized in various sectors of society, she said.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.