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EU Commissioner for Development
Speech at “The way forward: a disability inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond”
High-level meeting on Disability and Development/New York
23 September 2013
Presidents, Ladies and Gentlemen,
According to the World Health Organisation, over a billion people in the world are living with disabilities. Moreover, persons with disabilities may make up as many as one in five of the world’s poorest – altogether a stark picture indeed. That’s why this meeting is so welcome and timely.
The sad truth is that in many – if not all –societies, disability and poverty form a vicious circle for persons with disabilities. They are too often faced with additional barriers to education and training which limit their job opportunities, leading in turn to poverty, social exclusion and restricted access the basic human rights we all take for granted.
This is unacceptable. That’s why the European Union and its Member States are ardent defenders of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention is central to the European Disability Strategy, which emphasises equality of opportunity for persons with disabilities.
I’m proud to say that the European Commission currently runs almost 300 development projects in 87 countries specifically targeting persons with disabilities, for example by building accessible infrastructure of schools for children with disabilities. In addition to these projects, together worth around 140 million euro, many others address disability as a cross-cutting issue.
The EU is fully committed to helping meet the MDGs, and all persons with disabilities must enjoy the benefits as much as anyone else. The Agenda for Change we have designed to give our development policy greater impact aims to set aside at least 20% of future aid for human and social development, including social protection and social inclusion.
Later this week, the MDG Special Event will hopefully secure commitments to accelerate progress where it has been too slow. Looking further ahead, the international community is now working on a post-2015 development framework.
The EU hopes to see a universal, comprehensive framework which helps bring about a decent life for all people – men, women and children, no matter where they live and regardless of ethnicity, religion or disability.
I am particularly glad that the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda, to which I was honoured to serve, paves the path for greater inclusion of people with disabilities in the future development framework. Concretely, braille and audio versions of the report will be launched on Wednesday to make it universally accessible. This is obviously just one step in the long path to inclusion and accessibility but it sends the right message.
The global post-2015 partnership to deliver the future we all want will be based on shared responsibilities. This includes the responsibility for guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities to benefit from economic and social development and participate fully in it. In the end, upholding the rights of persons with disabilities must be seen as a priority for national policies which should aim to guarantee equal access to social services and to job markets for all, literally.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The EU will play its role: we will continue to ensure that the disability dimension is included in all our development-related policies and projects just as we committed to do under the UN Convention. Our long-term objective is to foster equality, non-discrimination and accessibility for persons with disabilities. For they have spent too long without a real voice, it’s time we listened to them.