Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other United Nations officials today marked the International Day of Disabled Persons – who constitute the world's largest minority group – with a call for a continuing commitment to secure their equal rights and full participation in society.
He and other senior UN officials urged a successful conclusion to talks on the Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.
Mr. Annan added: “Equal participation requires not only dismantling environmental, social and legal barriers that marginalize persons with disabilities. It also means making jobs, education, health, information and other services just as accessible to them as to everyone else.”
For many years the rights of persons with disabilities were overlooked, he said. More recently, progress has been made throughout the world in ensuring that people with disabilities can participate in and benefit from development, but much more needs to be done to ensure their full integration, he added.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour noted that two-thirds of the over 600 million persons in the world with a disability live in developing countries.
“A truly inclusive society presupposes the elimination of barriers in such areas as education, the provision of health care, employment, transportation, access to buildings and so on both for reasons of equity and because such prejudice limits the enormous contribution persons with disabilities can make to the development of their societies,” she said.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) said it has launched several bee, chicken and fish projects, as well as integrated pest management, targeting rural people living with disabilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
“By building their knowledge and skills, enabling them to improve their income, creating employment opportunities, and promoting their participation in rural development and food security strategies, governments and other stakeholders can enhance their livelihoods,” FAO population policy expert Libor Stloukal said.