Promoting Disability-Inclusive Business in Asia and the Pacific

Statement as Delivered by Dr. Noeleen Heyzer
United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Secretary of
the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General for Timor-Leste

Inaugural Award Ceremony for the ESCAP-Sasakawa Award
for Disability-Inclusive Business in Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok, Thailand, 3 December 2013

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today is a very special day. We are gathered here from all sectors of society to promote the rights and opportunities for the 650 million persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

The ceremony for the inaugural ESCAP-Sasakawa Award for Disability-Inclusive Business in Asia and the Pacific is being held today to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

In observance of the Day, the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has called on Governments, businesses and civil society to “break barriers and open doors of opportunity for all persons with disability.”

The private sector has a crucial role to play in these efforts, in promoting disability-friendly products, services, employment, and entrepreneurship development.

Almost one in five of your customers have a disability. They represent a significant resource to tap new skills and markets. By addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, we can lift people out of poverty and provide them with a dignified life, while developing new – and expanding – market shares.

That is why the “disability-inclusive business” model carries the promise of shared prosperity. It is also the reason why ESCAP, the Nippon Foundation, and the Asia-Pacific Centre on Disability jointly established the ESCAP-Sasakawa Award to recognize businesses that have responded to the demands of persons with disabilities by integrating universal design into their product development, and by engaging and hiring persons with disabilities in their day-to-day business operations.

Private sector leaders in this region, and beyond, have shown it is possible to employ persons with disabilities in a manner that spurs innovation, improves morale, increases productivity, lowers turnover, and improves the bottom line.

In particular, multinational enterprises, whose scale of business operations have far-reaching impacts upon both markets and the lives of the persons they employ, can serve as powerful drivers of disability-inclusive business.

In no industry is this better captured than in the information and communications technology sector - renowned for its dynamic pace, emerging technologies, and tremendous opportunities for growth.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is therefore, with great pleasure, that I announce that the Winner of the Multinational category for the ESCAP-Sasakawa Award for Disability-Inclusive Business is Wipro, from India.

I thank you.