NGO representatives from four continents call for a dismantling of disability barriers.
Monday September 23rd will focus on the most fundamental human rights and the effective participation of one billion people. Persons with disabilities, the world's largest minority - still stigmatized, hidden and outcast, never in the center and always on the margins of society. Excluded rather than included. In line with the rallying cry, "Nothing about us without us" NGO representatives from four continents, among them children with disabilities from India, call for a dismantling of barriers.
With his white cane Mike Godino of the Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled (BCID) taps his way into the brightly lit conference room of the Austrian Mission to the United Nations in New York. It is empowering to express ones most fundamental concerns in a diplomatic representation on the 31st floor. This is a one of a kind mission, which he shares with brothers and sisters with disabilities around the world. When if not now? Last year we were four votes short of passing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Senate. This year we have to succeed because this is about society's most vulnerable members.
Next, Rheka Kumari takes the floor after forcefully steering her wheel-chair in front of the panel at the press conference of the international NGO "Light for the World." Her heart overflowing, her voice strong: "During the rainy season I cannot make it to school on time by myself. In such instances I am accused of not abiding by the rules. When I go to hospital I am last in the queue and sometimes I do not get treated. We children with disabilities have rights, when will the world finally understand that" The blind Marathon world-record-holder Henry Wanyoike from Kenya reinforces that sentiment: "No one believed in me when I wanted to break world records after becoming blind, sometimes even I myself lost faith. But: "We are very able, when we are given an opportunity! Disability is not Inability..."
The voice of self-advocates, young and old from all parts of the world resonate through the streets of New York. Now it's the world leaders' turn: this coming Monday, 23 September at the headquarters of the United Nations, world leaders are set to reinforce their commitment to ensure that all children with disabilities can attend school and that anti-poverty efforts reach persons with disabilities, who by and large are among the poorest of the poor. At stake are the lives and opportunities of no less than every seventh person in the world.
Professor Stephen Hawking in his preface to the first ever World Report on Disability wrote: "Governments throughout the world can no longer overlook the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who are denied access to health, rehabilitation, support, education and employment, and never get the chance to shine."
In view of this Lady Liberty was blindfolded by persons with disabilities from around the world in New York already on Friday. The New York landmark morphed into "Lady Justice". And the world held its breath. Lady Liberty became the custodian of justice, which so many persons with disabilities are deprived of. But she does not hold the blade in her right hand but rather the torch of hope, the fire of freedom.
Updated Report from UN Headquarters, New York, 24th September 2013
From now on all development programs of the UN agencies and all 193 Member States have to be made accessible
Disability: Ban Ki-moon energizes the international community to move from commitment to action
The result of yesterday's United Nations High-Level-Meeting on Disability and Development in New York: At last, heads of state realized that accessibility is the only way of making poverty alleviation sustainable. One billion people worldwide have a disability. The majority of those affected live in developing countries.
"Our challenge is to energize the international community to move from commitment to action", UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon demands. And Stevie Wonder, UN Messenger of Peace, appeals to all of us during the UN High Level Meeting on Disability and Development held Monday 23rd September ad United Nations Headquarters in New York: "Today we all are brothers and sisters in the struggle to make this life and the future better, not for one, but for all." Foreign Minister John Kerry pointed out: "What matters in one culture has to be considered elsewhere. Societies are stronger when every single one of our citizens, able-bodied and disabled alike, all get to live up for their full potential."
Poverty is the primary cause of disability worldwide and in turn disability often leads to an impoverished life. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was joined not only by Stevie Wonder, but also by heads of state such as Austrian President Heinz Fischer and the EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, to discuss the improvement for future development policy. President Fischer stressed: "Persons with disabilities and in particular children and women with disabilities still bear the brunt of the world's extreme poverty. Let us therefore tear down barriers that keep our societies from progressing." The UN High-Level-Meeting Outcome Document summarizes the most important steps to make poverty alleviation accessible. The UN Member States commit to implement the necessary measures in their development policies. In two years time the United Nations General Assembly will appraise the results in a pertinent report.
Persons with disabilities shall no longer be perceived as recipients of alms but as human beings who have rights like everybody else - e.g. the right to attend school or to visit a doctor. The international development NGO 'Light for the World' has advocated for accessible development in over ten years and is proud that the relentless work has borne fruit.
While disability was a minority issue ten years ago, it is now firmly established as a concern of international anti-poverty policy. These rights are enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in 2007 and till now has been ratified by 134 countries.
www.light-for-the-world.org - www.endexclusion.eu
Photo Credit: Kumari, Wanyoike, lady liberty NY: Eden photography/Light for the World