Empowering persons with disabilities and securing their rights will advance society as a whole, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said today as he urged strengthening global cooperation and partnership on the matter at the Eighth Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The three-day meeting, which opened today at UN Headquarters in New York, aims to take stock of past achievements and looks ahead at strategies for the future. The treaty on persons with disabilities was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April, 2006, following five years of negotiations.
“The Convention of 2006 marked a conceptual shift – from a charity and medical approach to the human rights-based view of disability. This shift will guide us in the right direction going forward,” Mr. Eliasson said today in his opening remarks.
“Our fundamental message then and now is that all human beings are equal and that we constantly have to live up to this assertion of human dignity,” he added as he commended the Convention’s 154 States Parties, and the 86 that have ratified or acceded to its Optional Protocol.
“Similarly, I call on all other countries to join the Convention and carry out its provisions,” the Deputy Secretary-General added.
“We are working to shape an inclusive, accessible and sustainable society for all, guided by a new vision for development for the next 15 years that Member States will adopt in September,” he stated.
The Deputy Secretary-General welcomed the focus on mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda, saying that it will help ensure a life of dignity for all.
Mr. Eliasson also encouraged all to work out global indicators that reflect the rights enshrined in the Convention. To that end, data will be crucial to ensuring that persons with disabilities are counted as the world aims to achieve the goals.
“The tragic fact is that persons with disabilities are among the most excluded and isolated in practically all regions of the world. We need urgent action to reduce exclusion, inequality and discrimination,” he said.
It is critical to address the vulnerability of persons with disabilities particularly faced by women and girls, disadvantaged youth, and older persons. The new vision for sustainable development should offer a framework for bold action, benefitting all, he stressed.
“Every country should make the right to inclusive education systems a reality for all students, including boys and girls with disabilities,” Mr. Eliasson emphasized.
He also called attention to the need for full enjoyment of human rights for persons with disabilities in times of disasters, refugee movements and humanitarian emergencies. The results of the Sendai Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and the ongoing consultations towards the World Humanitarian Summit have underlined that persons with disabilities are disproportionally left behind.
Member States, the public and private sector, UN entities, civil society, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities, should all come together to support the Convention’s implementation.
“We should recall that the quality of a society is ultimately determined by how it deals with and treats its most vulnerable citizens,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.
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