Press Releases

     2 December 2004

Secretary-General, Marking International Day of Disabled Persons, Calls for Changes in Thinking about their Place in Society

NEW YORK, 1 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on the International Day of Disabled Persons, observed on 3 December 2004:

This year’s International Day of Disabled Persons focuses on the goal of full and equal participation by persons with disabilities in social life and development, which is a central message of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons.

For many years, persons with disabilities tended to be viewed as “objects” of welfare policies. Today, as a result of a dramatic shift in perspective that has been taking place over the past two decades, persons with disabilities have started to be viewed as people who must enjoy the full spectrum of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights. This process is admittedly slow and uneven, but it is taking place in all parts of the world. The motto of the international disability movement, “Nothing About Us Without Us”, encapsulates the shift.

The right to make one’s own choices and to participate in all areas of life is figuring prominently in current efforts to elaborate an international convention on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. Those efforts are making good progress, and the process itself has seen an unprecedented degree of engagement by persons with disabilities and their organizations in international negotiations, bringing their first-hand experience and expertise to bear on disability issues.

Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that persons with disabilities are the best experts on how to remove barriers to their participation, and must be included in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes that affect their lives. Moreover, no society can claim to be based on justice and equality without persons with disabilities taking decisions as full-fledged members.

On this observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to fundamental changes in our thinking about the place of persons with disabilities in society. And let us pledge to work even harder towards fully inclusive societies.

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