Press Releases

    2 December 2002


    NEW YORK, 29 November (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the International Day of Disabled Persons, 3 December:

    The theme of this year’s observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons is "Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods". It highlights recent efforts to find innovative approaches to achieving the long-held goal of full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in the lives of their societies.

    One initiative of the past year that stands out was the call by President Vincente Fox of Mexico to establish a special committee to further the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of development. In response, the General Assembly created an Ad Hoc Committee to consider proposals for the elaboration of an international convention on promoting the rights and dignity of disabled people. The Committee is chaired by Ecuador, which has long been at the forefront of the movement for equal opportunities for disabled people and was one of the first countries to include the rights of people with disabilities in its Constitution.

    Action on the ground, in people’s lives, is the natural and necessary complement to norm-setting. Also in the past year, the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres has intensified its collaboration with local Independent Living Resource Centres in promoting community-based approaches to disability issues. It has undertaken research and workshops on an array of important issues, including family violence, literacy, employment, education, and drug and alcohol abuse, and is extending the reach of its activities to more and more of the country’s provinces. Such efforts provide both leadership and lessons from which others can benefit.

    The commitment to full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in economic and social development is deeply rooted in the principles of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments. It was reflected in the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of all the major world conferences of the past decade. And of course, it is the heart of The World Programme of Action Concerning Persons with Disabilities and The Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilitie.

    On this International Day of Disabled Persons, let us renew our pledge to fight exclusion, to create opportunities for all people, and to 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.

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