UN officials highlight efforts to help disabled persons participate fully in daily life
Marking the International Day of Disabled Persons, United Nations officials today highlighted efforts to find innovative approaches to help people with disabilities achieve full and equal participation in all aspects of economic, social, cultural and political life.
In a message to commemorate the occasion, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that the commitment to full and effective participation of disabled persons in economic and social development is deeply rooted in the principles of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments.
The Secretary-General also urged the international community to pledge to fight exclusion, create opportunities for all people, and "build societies in which persons with disabilities are seen not only as beneficiaries of society's support, but as an empowered and empowering source of social, cultural, political and economic development."
For his part, General Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic noted that the UN system has played a powerful, catalytic role, first by placing the issue on the world agenda more than a generation ago and then through regular monitoring and reporting of the progress achieved at national and international levels.
Mr. Kavan pointed out, however, that there is no comprehensive database on disability statistics and the application of benefits of treaties and conventions dealing with human rights and the elimination of discrimination of populations with disabilities remains lacking.
"At this critical juncture, it is imperative that relevant governmental and regional institutions focus on the issue of sustainable livelihood and independent living through infrastructure for education, training, capacity building, rehabilitation, medical and social services, safety nets and promotion of employment opportunities," he said.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, stressed that disability must be understood as a human rights issue, and that violations of civil liberties and humanitarian law are often causes of disability. "Discrimination undermines human dignity and deprives persons with disabilities of those basic rights and fundamental freedoms that most of us take for granted," he said.
The High Commissioner also referred to the process undertaken by the UN General Assembly to consider proposals for a new international treaty to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, stressing that a new accord would enhance dramatically the "visibility" of persons with disabilities, and would represent an important step forward in the recognition and protection of their human rights.