Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Welcoming remarks at the opening of the Panel Discussion
“Voices of People affected by Leprosy”

Side Event of the Eighth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

H.E. Mr. Yoshifumi Okamura, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to represent the Department of Economic and Social Affairs/DESA, and to welcome you to the United Nations and to this side event on voices of persons affected by leprosy. I am Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in DESA.

DESA serves as the global focal point on disability within the UN system, which is hosted in the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD). Since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, DSPD in DESA has also been serving as the Secretariat to this Conference of States Parties, promoting the implementation of the Convention and building new partnerships and networks to advance its implementation. Our combined efforts on disability-related issues are joined by one overarching goal, the realization of full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and development as beneficiaries and agents of change.

This is the first time in history that the issue of leprosy is being specifically taken up during the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities. It marks a development in our collective understanding and perception of disability. It points to a greater understanding of the environmental obstacles that shape disability and create exclusion – the physical and attitudinal barriers that have been allowed to persist.

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

The treatment of persons with leprosy has adversely impacted people and their societies for thousands of years. Persons with leprosy have typically been ostracized by communities and families, and are often looked upon as objects to be feared. Today, leprosy is curable and treatment provided in the early stages averts disability. As a result leprosy has largely been eliminated. Yet, persons affected by leprosy continue to face high levels of exclusion in our societies.

As we move towards the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, it is crucial that all persons with disabilities are not left behind.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls for measures to combat such stigma, stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination and calls for the full and equal participation of all persons with disabilities in society, on an equal basis with others.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Before I conclude, I would like to express my appreciation to the co-organizers of this event – Disabled People’s International, the Nippon Foundation, Permanent Mission of Ethiopia and Permanent Mission of Japan. It is indeed a privilege to be here with the Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, Mr. Yohei Sasakawa and the global chairperson of Disabled People’s International, Mr. Javed Abidi, as well as the Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan, H.E. Mr. Yoshifumi Okamura.

I also want recognize the presence of Dr. P.K. Gopal, the President of the International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement and Mr. Jose Ramirez, representing the International Working Group on Leprosy.

I am pleased to also welcome a number of individuals representing persons with leprosy from developing countries. Colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, you are all very welcome to this important event.

Distinguished guests and colleagues,

The mission of the United Nations is to promote economic and social progress, and to advance human rights for secure and prosperous world. This is only genuinely possible through the active participation of all and through inclusive development that leaves no one behind. Persons affected by leprosy, like any others are agents of change for society.

Thank you so much.

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