Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations at the
9th Conference of the State Parties of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
United Nations, New York, 16 June 2015
Thank you Madam Chair,
At the outset, my delegation offers its warmest congratulations on your appointment as Chair, as well as to the other members of the Bureau. Let me also express our gratitude to the Secretary General for the three reports that have been produced under this mandate.
This ninth session of the Conference of the State Parties of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities marks the first time we meet since the historical adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 10 years ago was a historic moment for the international community: the Convention is the first legally binding human rights treaty to focus on protecting the human rights of people with disabilities; recognising them as rather than a social welfare concern, to a human rights issue; while acknowledging the necessity of eliminating societal barriers and prejudices, which will enable every person to reach their fullest potential.
Consider these figures: around 10 per cent of the world's population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. They are the world's largest minority. According to the WHO, this figure is increasing. According to the UNDP, eighty per cent of persons with disability live in developing countries. Addressing the discrimination and the challenges, persons with disability face is therefore critical for the international community.
Although the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an important framework within which the issues concerning disabilities can be addressed. As the Special Rapporteur noted, during this year's Commission for Social Development, there is a common understanding that social policies inclusive of persons with disability are a sound investment in society and that their exclusion from decisions comes with economic costs that countries can no longer ignore.
The Maldives acceded to the Convention in April 2010. In the six years since, much work has been done to ensure that the country's legal framework is in line with the Convention. The Government is committed to ensure that the rights of persons with disability are respected and ensured. The Constitution of the Maldives guarantees the full enjoyment of equal rights and fundamental freedoms to persons with disabilities. In conjunction, in 2010, the Maldives enacted the Disability Act. Since then complementary regulations under the Act, including regulations on Disability Minimum Standards, Regulation on Providing Financial Assistance and Assistive Devices to People with Disabilities, and the Regulation on Disability Registry have further elaborated the provisions of the Act.
Disability classification guidelines are also being drafted in order to define different disabilities, to create a rights-based mechanism in providing government incentives, rehabilitation opportunities and serve as basis for affirmative action. Additionally, the Mental Health Policy is being revised and plans are underway to develop a mental health action plan. Further, the Disability Council constituted under the Disabilities Act is working on raising awareness, as well as countering stigma throughout the country. In 2013, the Government has introduced a National Disability Award, to recognise the achievements of people with disabilities and those that contribute to the well being of people with disabilities.
There is an explicit link between poverty, inequality and realising the rights of persons with disabilities. The World Bank estimates that 20 per cent of the world's poorest people are disabled, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged. In the Maldives, the Disability Register, established under the Disability Act, ensures that persons with disabilities in the Maldives are listed on official documentation and therefore receive monthly subsidies. Along with comprehensive healthcare, this allowance eases the lives of persons with disabilities, especially those living in poverty.
Much progress has been made in the Maldives to cater for the needs of people with disabilities. However, we face many challenges in developing and implementing effective measures to combat inequality among persons with disabilities. Part of the problems we face are very much related to the unique geography and size of the Maldives, where the population is highly dispersed over 200 islands. Providing appropriate healthcare, mobility and accessibility of services to over 180 inhabited islands is extremely challenging. Like all developing countries, despite the determination and perseverance in achieving this goal, the Maldives requires the assistance, expertise and support of the international community to fully achieve this goal.