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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

03 December 2021


Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to host this commemorative event today on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The theme for this year is “Leadership and Participation of Person with Disabilities towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.

To realize fully inclusive and equitable societies, we need the leadership of persons with disabilities in all types of decision-making processes.

Governments, the private sector and civil society organizations must consistently seek the participation of persons with disabilities, in line with the principle of “nothing about us without us.”

We are honoured to have many leaders from the disability community joining our event today. Leaders from this community have been integral to all of the accomplishments within the Asia-Pacific region towards building more inclusive societies, including shaping the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” and the Beijing Action Plan.

Although we celebrate the advances made towards disability-inclusive development, we are still a long way off from ensuring the rights of all persons with disabilities as laid out in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

For example, persons with disabilities struggle to achieve the right to work on an equal basis. Available data suggest that persons with disabilities are only about half as likely to be employed as persons without disabilities. This is particularly true for women, youth, persons with severe disabilities and those living in rural areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns exacerbated these inequalities. The lack of economic resilience among persons with disabilities left them even more exposed to income losses. 

Today, ESCAP is launching the report “Disability at a Glance 2021: The Shaping of Disability-inclusive Employment in Asia and the Pacific.”

This report presents a detailed picture of the regional situation for persons with disabilities and includes recommendations for governments to promote employment for this group.

As highlighted in the report, employing persons with disabilities offers opportunities for economic growth and advancement and fulfills their right to work. Including persons with disabilities in employment and other areas of life will benefit all of society.

As the world looks towards a post-COVID-19 reality, governments should use this rebuilding opportunity to invest in productive employment and decent work for persons with disabilities.

The report features innovative approaches to reducing the employment gap, which can serve as potential inspiration for policymakers throughout the region.

Organizations of persons with disabilities will play a critical role in successful reforms. ESCAP has partnered with several such organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic to support their work in training, empowering and providing mental health and other services to persons with disabilities.

Through these programmes, men and women with disabilities have learned to conduct accessibility audits in their home districts, improving access to essential buildings.

Another programme taught a group with diverse disabilities web access auditing and e-publishing. Participants aim to create a social enterprise through which persons with disabilities can lead efforts to improve online accessibility.

ESCAP is committed to continuing our decades-long partnership with Governments, persons with disabilities and their organizations to promote disability-inclusive development.

I look forward to strengthening our collaboration with all stakeholders to build more inclusive and accessible societies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Now, I have the privilege of reading a message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, to commemorate this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

I quote:

Realizing the rights, agency, and leadership of persons with disabilities will advance our common future.

We need everyone, including persons with disabilities, on board to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Around the world, persons with disabilities and their representative organizations are taking action to realize the call: ‘Nothing about us, without us’.

COVID-19 has laid bare the persistent barriers and inequalities faced by the world’s 1 billion persons with disabilities, who have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

A disability-inclusive pandemic response and recovery should be guided by persons with disabilities themselves, forge partnerships, tackle injustice and discrimination, expand access to technology and strengthen institutions to create a more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.

I urge all countries to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, increase accessibility, and dismantle legal, social, economic and other barriers with the active involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us commit to build a sustainable, inclusive and just future for everyone, leaving no one behind.

End of quote.

I thank you.

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