Respected Co-Chairs, Excellencies and distinguished delegates,
At the outset, the Maldives also joins other speakers in conveying our deep condolences and sympathies to the people of Kenya and other countries that are affected, following the tragic incident in Nairobi that has taken so many precious lives and injured many more.
At the beginning of this millennium, the global community began an endeavour of hope for billions of people, with its commitment to achieving the MDGs. Since then, millions of people from all over the world have been lifted from extreme poverty. A huge number of girls and boys of all ages have been able to learn and be enlightened. Infant mortality has been reduced and maternal health improved. There have also been marked improvements in awareness and action on environmental sustainability.
While we acknowledge our achievements in these areas, much remains to be done to continue the work we have begun, and to address the gaps in this current agenda of development. Included in this development framework, the perspectives of the vulnerable and marginalized in the society are of utmost importance and of much relevance. Therefore, as we set the stage for the post 2015 development agenda, we must find a way to mainstream disability as well as include the persons with disabilities in the international development agenda towards 2015 and beyond.
Today, the Maldives is pleased to participate at this important event aimed towards this goal. I wish to express our profound appreciation to you, Co-Chairs and the President of the General Assembly for convening this high level meeting on disability as per the General Assembly decision in 2011. My Delegation is deeply grateful to the Secretary-General for the useful documentation submitted to the Assembly for consideration as we debate on this important item.
The Constitution of the Maldives adopted in 2008, for the very first time guarantees full enjoyment of equal rights and fundamental freedoms to persons with disabilities. The Government of Maldives remains fully committed to promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. As a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Maldives enacted the Disability Act in July 2010. Under the Act, the establishment of a Disability Council has been a defining moment in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities. The Council has the mandate to promote and support all sectors in compliance with internationally established norms and standards, and to establish a safe environment for persons with disabilities. The Council is also entrusted with the responsibility to carry out advocacy on disability related issues and to establish standards of facilities and services for persons with disabilities.
Under the Disability Act, the Maldives was able to establish a Disability Register identifying persons with disabilities, for the purpose of paying them an allowance. As of last year, the Disability Register comprises 1.16% of the total population. The Disability Act provides an allowance for persons with disability and it is the State’s responsibility to make arrangements to provide this allowance. In April 2011, the Ministry of Health in association with the World Health Organisation was able to develop a Roadmap in addressing the issues of disability. The Roadmap includes developing a manual for categorizing and coding disability; their accessibility; development of community based rehabilitation programmes; and advocacy for disability. The government is presently in the process of developing a National Disability Policy in accordance with the Disability Act. Following an initiative taken recently by the government to allocate social housing for persons with disability, 15 families have been allocated this year to receive residency apartments. During this year, the government has further finalised measures for special schooling accessibility for children with disability.
While the Maldives is fully committed to improving the living conditions and promoting the achievement of the MDGs for persons with disabilities by explicitly including disability considerations in all its national plans, policies, and tools, the country is faced with numerous challenges and hurdles in achieving its target of a fully inclusive development plan.
The Maldives with its unique challenges and vulnerabilities owing to its geography and size is faced with the reality to endure extra burdens on its already limited and insufficient resources and capacity, in catering to the needs of a highly dispersed population of persons with disabilities. Ensuring appropriate health care, rehabilitation, mobility and accessibility to services on about 200 inhabited islands of Maldives proves to be an extremely difficult and yet a much desired goal Maldives endeavours to achieve.
For the realisation of this goal, we need the expertise, support and assistance of the international community and our development partners in building relevant infrastructure, improving accessibility and improving professional and technical national capacities. We need to create new facilities and improve conditions of existing facilities for disabled persons under state care. We need to establish more Special Education Needs units in primary and secondary schools, especially within the atolls. We need to improve facilities and quality of resources available in existing schools catering to the needs of persons with disabilities. We need to improve capacities and increase participation of civil society. Furthermore, we are in dire need of qualified doctors, teachers, counsellors, therapists and other professionals related to the field.
In the face of these numerous challenges faced by the Maldives and many other countries, the world needs to once again to come together and reinforce its commitment to a disability inclusive growth approach and call for the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of the post-2015 development agenda. It is my Delegation’s sincere hope that the outcome document of this Meeting will provide a strong platform for the global community to put all its efforts together and work towards renewing existing commitments to the advancement of persons with disabilities and to realizing a disability inclusive post-2015 development agenda.