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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2010

Disabilities Civil Society Forum: Opening Speech

Hon Jim McLay CNZM, QSO, New Zealand Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Opening Speech at the Disabilities Civil Society Forum, Tuesday 31 August

E nga mana
E nga reo
E nga iwi
Tena koutou katoa

(Explanation of Maori text, above: Distinguished guests, people of other languages, people from the four corners of the world; greetings to you all.)

I thank IDA Chair and President of Inclusion International, Diane Richler, and Akiko Ito of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), for inviting me speak today; and particularly for according me the honour of welcoming you to this Civil Society Forum.

We will, today, be fortunate to hear from the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability, Shuaib Chalklen, and Judith Heumann, the Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the US State Department, and formerly the World Bank Group's first Advisor on Disability and Development.

The theme of this year’s Forum, International Cooperation, provides an excellent opportunity to look back at the Convention and, in particular, to Article 32 – which is acknowledged as a paradigm shift which started the work of mainstreaming disability into the development agenda.

Article 32 emphasises the importance of international cooperation in achieving the objectives of the Convention, including through international development programmes. 

Article 32 is, of course, framed in broad terms; and it’s now important to consider how it can be operationalised in a way that delivers tangible results for persons with disabilities.   

Worldwide, there are around 650 million persons with disabilities, yet 80 per cent of them live in developing countries.

Even in developed countries, persons with disabilities are, on average, poorer than persons without disabilities.

These figures alone show that persons with disabilities represent a significantly overlooked development challenge; and Article 32 provides a tool for that development.

Indeed, it’s my hope that the Convention will spur the further mainstreaming of disability throughout the development agenda.

Consideration of international development issues is very topical as we are only three weeks away from the High Level Meeting to assess progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals – and, in that context, we’d wish to see appropriate recognition of the needs of persons with disabilities. 

I also take this opportunity to restate the vital importance of collaboration between DPOs, NGOs, States and UN agencies.

This was key during the negotiations on the Convention; and it’s key now for its successful implementation.

The Convention is the newest human rights convention – the first of the 21st Century.

It already has 146 signatories and 90 parties; and 89 signatories and 56 parties to the Optional Protocol.

After just three years, that’s commendable progress; but our work is far from done.

I’d challenge you, as civil society, to continue lobbying States to sign both the Convention and Optional Protocol, and for the current signatories to speed their ratification processes.  

Linked to this is the need to ensure continued positive momentum on disabilities in general.

Likewise, I ask you, as civil society, to keep monitoring and working with States on their periodic treaty body reporting; in particular to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but also in reports to other treaty bodies as well.

I hardly need tell this audience that persons with disabilities often face multiple discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national, ethnic, indigenous or social origin, property, birth, age or other status.

In short:  A denial of basic human rights.

Women, children and persons living in poverty who are also disabled are often at the greatest risk.

The rights of persons with disabilities therefore intersect with all other areas of human rights – and we need greater recognition of that fact.

The work that is being done to mainstream disability in development shows the importance of the partnership between DPOs, NGOs, States and UN agencies.

I wish you the best for a substantive and fruitful discussion today; and hope that those discussions will lead to an equally substantive and productive Conference of Parties.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT