19 September 2006

Secretary-General Hails Creativity, Inclusiveness of Poland as He Presents President with Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award

NEW YORK, 18 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award Ceremony in New York, 18 September:

It is a pleasure to join you for the presentation of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award.

Let me first say a special word of thanks for the gift that has just been given to me.  This photograph of President Roosevelt will be very much at home here at UN Headquarters.  He remains a great symbol for all of us in the international community and for all people with disabilities.  Indeed, the presentation of this award, established in his name, helps bring much-needed attention to disability issues worldwide and to our common work to improve the lives of disabled people everywhere.

The United Nations has long fought for the full participation of persons with disabilities.  Last month, that effort reached a long-sought and long-overdue milestone:  agreement by Member States on the text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Once it is adopted by the General Assembly in the coming months, it will launch a new era in efforts to assert and achieve the human rights for persons with disabilities.  I have urged all Member States to ratify the Convention and ensure its rapid implementation.  I congratulate the World Committee on Disability for the key role it has played in this process, and I look forward to the contributions the Committee will no doubt make in fulfilling the new Convention's objectives.

Today we celebrate the achievements of Poland in this struggle.  Poland offers an inspiring example.  The rights of persons with disabilities are enshrined in the country's Constitution and in the Charter of Disabled Persons.  Other laws promote work opportunities, education and non-discrimination.  State initiatives have helped newly disabled individuals lead independent lives, and have promoted inclusive education wherever possible.  The Government has shown real creativity, for example in pairing design and architecture students with persons with disabilities to create accessible buildings and facilities.  And it worked actively with other members of the European Union to ensure agreement on the Convention.  Polish society is, thus, showing how to create a just and equitable society for all citizens.  I am delighted to congratulate the Government and people of Poland on receiving this award.  Let us hope that many more will follow your lead.

People with disabilities form a large group -- at 650 million, larger than is commonly realized.  For many years, their needs and rights tended to be overlooked.  Thankfully, that has been changing, but much more must be done.

Let us remember that equal participation requires not only dismantling barriers, but creating opportunities.  Let us stress that societies that neglect the integration of persons with disabilities deprive themselves of the valuable contributions such individuals make.  And let us, finally, reaffirm our commitment to the full participation of disabled people in the economic, social and political lives of their societies.

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