New York

09 September 2013

Secretary-General's message to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Rights Award Ceremony honouring Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain [delivered by Mr. Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights]

It gives me great pleasure to convey greetings to all who have gathered for the presentation of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award. I would like to commend the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice for their long-standing efforts to promote the well-being and rights of persons with disabilities around the world.

Since the establishment of the Roosevelt International Disability Award in 1995, much progress has been made in changing the perception of disability. Where once people with disabilities were viewed largely through the prism of assistance and charity, today we have a more holistic vision.  The Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted seven years ago, was a landmark in setting out standards for human rights and development for persons with disabilities.

Several States have taken major steps to implement the Convention. However, for too many persons with disabilities, stigma, discrimination and exclusion remain a fact of everyday life.

This award ceremony and especially the High-level Meeting on Disability and Development to be held two weeks from today mark a critical juncture in our work.  Our challenge is to energize the international community to move from commitment to action.  As we strive to accelerate our work for the Millennium Development Goals, and as we consider the post-2015 development framework, greater recognition must be given to the issue of disability in sustainable, inclusive and equitable development.

The FDR award helps to shine a spotlight on those countries that have shown real commitment and dedication to advancing the disability agenda. The deep commitment of Spain to the issue of disability is demonstrated in many ways.  Here in New York, Spain is playing a dynamic role as a co-facilitator of the High-level Meeting. I commend Ambassador Fernando Arias Gonzalez, Spain’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, for his capable efforts to prepare for this important meeting.  In Spain itself, we see inspiring efforts towards inclusion and equality.  Last year’s adoption of a comprehensive strategy on disability promises to remove barriers to participation in all aspects of society, including employment, social protection and public life.

I am deeply grateful to Queen Sofia and the Spanish Royal Family, and to the Spanish Government and people, for this display of leadership and for the many achievements to date.  I hope it will inspire others to follow suit.

People with disabilities make up 15 per cent of the global population – a huge portion of humankind.  Some of us are born with disabilities; others may acquire disabilities through an accident, illness or just the process of aging.  A world that recognizes the rights of the disabled, ensures that people with disabilities can be productive members of their communities and nations, and provides an inclusive and accessible environment, is a world that will benefit all of us - with or without disabilities.