The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Keeping the promise: mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals”.
Among the promises made by world leaders at the MDG Summit in September was a commitment to improve the lives of persons with disabilities.
This diverse group includes people close to us – family, friends and neighbours. Indeed, physical, mental and sensory impairments are very common, affecting about 10 per cent of the world’s population.
Disability is also highly correlated with poverty. People with disabilities account for roughly 20 per cent of those living in poverty in developing countries. Worldwide, they suffer high rates of unemployment and often lack access to adequate education and healthcare. In many societies, there are simply no provisions made for this group and they end up living in isolation, disconnected from their own communities.
Despite these obstacles, persons with disabilities have displayed great courage and resilience. But even as we continue to be inspired by those who reach the highest levels of human achievement, such successes must not obscure the difficulties faced by those who live in desperate conditions and lack the rights, privileges and opportunities available to their fellow citizens.
Governments need to do more to support people with disabilities. That means implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And it means integrating their needs into national Millennium Development Goal agendas. In the Action Plan adopted at the MDG Summit, world leaders recognized that current efforts are insufficient.
On this International Day, let us recognize that the battles against poverty, disease and discrimination will not be won without targeted laws, policies and programmes that empower this group. Let us pledge to keep the promise of the goals alive in the community of persons with disabilities. And let us include them not only as beneficiaries but as valued agents of change in our five-year push to reach the goals by the internationally agreed deadline of 2015.