International Day of Persons with Disabilities – 3 December

2008 Theme: “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Dignity
and justice for all of us”.

Programme of the International Day at United Nations Headquarters, New York(http://www.un.org/disabilities/defaultaasp?id=1452

Dignity and justice for all of us is the theme of this year’s International
Day for Persons with Disabilities, as well as for the 60th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Dignity and justice for all persons are established universal principles. Since
its inception, the United Nations has recognized that the inherent dignity
and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are
the foundations of freedom, justice and peace in the world. These principles,
along with equality and non-discrimination, have guided the work of the United
Nations for the past 60 years and are enshrined in various instruments such
as the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as
in treaties such as the International Covenants on Human Rights, and the Convention
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These instruments are among those
which make up the international human rights framework, are complementary
and reaffirm that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interrelated,
interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

2008 is a significant year in the international human rights movement given
the entry into force on 3 May of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, legally binding instruments which set
out the legal obligations of States to promote and protect the rights of
persons with disabilities, as well as the 60th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 25 of the UDHR provides that each
person has “the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness,
disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances
beyond his control”. Several articles in the Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities expound on this right to security, including article
10 on right to life and article 14 on liberty and security of person. Article
28 is more specific in that it asks that States Parties take steps to safeguard
and promote that realization of the right to an adequate standard of living
and social protection, including ensuring “access by persons with disabilities
and their families living in situations of poverty to assistance from the State
with disability-related expenses, including adequate training, counselling,
financial assistance and respite care”. These instruments mark a clear
reaffirmation that persons with disabilities have the right to full and equal
enjoyment of their human rights. They also mark a clear reaffirmation of the principles
of ‘dignity and justice for all of us’.

Around 10 per cent of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live
with disabilities. The Convention promotes and protects the human rights of
persons with disabilities in civil, cultural, economic, political, and social life.
However, all over the world, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers
to their participation in society and are often forced to live on the margins
of society. They are routinely denied basic rights such as to equal recognition
before the law and legal capacity, freedom of expression and opinion, and the
right to participate in political and public life, such as voting. Many
persons with disabilities are forced into institutions, a direct breach of the
rights to freedom of movement and to live in the community.

Eighty per cent of persons with disabilities – more than 400 million people
– live in poor countries and there is a strong link between disability
and poverty. For example, the statistics on employment for persons with disabilities are
staggering. In developing countries, 80 per cent to 90 per cent of persons
with disabilities of working age unemployed and in industrialized countries
it is estimated to be between 50 per cent and 70 per cent. The rights to education
and health are also routinely denied. Ninety per cent of children with disabilities
in developing countries do not attend school, says UNESCO.

Approximately 20 million women acquire disabilities as a result of complications
during pregnancy or childbirth. This continued marginalization against
persons with disabilities highlights the need for all States to sign, ratify
and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and
its Optional Protocol.

The United Nations and the global community must ensure that all its work is
inclusive of persons with disabilities. The Millennium Development Goals will
not be achieved if persons with disabilities are not included. Efforts to achieve
the MDGs and implement the Convention are interdependent and mutually
reinforcing.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, as well during the
year-long celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, let us use “dignity and justice for all of us” as a
rallying call, as these principles are far from being realized for everyone.

Dignity and justice are embodied in the civil, cultural, economic, political, and social

rights promoted by the Convention. Therefore, the International Day of
Persons with Disabilities is a time to make a renewed commitment to the ratification
and full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

One of the fundamental obligations contained in the Convention is that national
law should guarantee the enjoyment of the rights enumerated in the Convention. States Parties

should thus consider the best ways of giving effect to the rights guaranteed by the Convention

in domestic law. Implementing legislation
should include the terms of the Convention or a specific reference to them,
in order to indicate clearly that the laws should be interpreted in accordance
with the letter and spirit of the Convention.

Legislation alone will not ensure that persons with disabilities can enjoy
their human rights. States will need to formulate effective policies and programmes
that will transform the provisions of the Convention into practices that will
have a real impact on the lives of persons with disabilities. For persons
with disabilities, as for all persons, the denial of one right can lead to the
denial of other rights and opportunities throughout their lives.
Article 33 explains that States must set up national focal points governments
in order to monitor implementation of the Convention’s precepts. States must
also set up independent monitoring mechanisms, which usually take the form of
an independent national human rights institution.

The full participation of civil society, in particular persons with disabilities
and their representative organizations, is essential in the national monitoring
and implementation process. International monitoring is achieved via the Committee
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Conference of States
Parties. The first meeting of the Conference of States Parties was held on 31
October and 3 November 2008.

This International Day for Persons with Disabilities is a time to make a renewed
commitment to these principles of dignity and justice and to ensure implementation
of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
All human beings are not only entitled to rights, but also have the responsibility
of making universal human rights a reality for all of us.

The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities,
3 December, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize
support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration
of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic
and cultural life. The theme of the Day is based on the goal of full and equal
enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities,
established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons,
adopted by General Assembly in 1982. The official title of the Day was changed
from International Day of Disabled Persons to International Day of Persons
with Disabilities by General Assembly resolution 62/127
on 18 December 2007.

How the Day May Be Observed

  • Involve: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation
    by all interested communities – governmental, non-governmental and the private
    sector – to focus upon catalytic and innovative measures to further implement
    international norms and standards related to persons with disabilities. Schools,
    universities and similar institutions can make particular contributions with
    regard to promoting greater interest and awareness among interested parties
    of the social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights of persons with
    disabilities.
  • Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns
    in support of the Day focusing on disability issues and trends and ways and
    means by which persons with disabilities and their families are pursuing independent
    life styles, sustainable livelihoods and financial security.
  • Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase
    – and celebrate – the contributions by persons with disabilities to the societies
    in which they live and convene exchanges and dialogues focusing on the rich and
    varied skills, interests and aspirations of persons with disabilities.
  • Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to further
    implement international norms and standards concerning persons with disabilities
    and to further their participation in social life and development on the basis
    of equality. The media have especially important contributions to make in
    support of the observance of the Day – and throughout the year – regarding appropriate
    presentation of progress and obstacles implementing disability-sensitive
    policies, programmes and projects and to promote public awareness of the contributions
    by persons with disabilities.

For more information, please contact:

Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development
United Nations Headquarters
Two United Nations Plaza, 13th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10017
Fax: +1 (212) 963-3062
Email: enable@un.org

Reproduced from http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=109