Asia-Pacific Regional Commemoration of the 2010 International Day of Persons with Disabilities

3 December 2010, Bangkok

United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC)

Launched recently by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the “Make the Right Real” Campaign to promote the effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Asia-Pacific got another boost when over 200 persons, including Government and UN officials, representatives of Disabled Persons’ organizations and law students, assembled at the UN Conference Centre on 3 December, on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

In one of the highlights of the Day, all participants joined to collectively say in sign language: “Make the Right Real”, expressing their support for the Regional Campaign launched in October 2010 during the second session of the Committee on Social Development.

“A proper legal framework is crucial to guaranteeing the social, political, economic and cultural rights of persons with disabilities, directly affecting their survival, daily life and dignity”, stated H.E. Seiji Kojima, Ambassador of Japan to Thailand in his keynote address for the event. He continued: “Now that we have the Convention, harmonization of national legislation [to ensure they are in line with the Convention] poses both challenges and opportunities for many countries in the region...”

Organized jointly by ESCAP and the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), the Asia-Pacific Regional Commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was convened with the theme “Making the Right Real: Legal Perspectives on Promoting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

The event also considered the global theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities: “Keeping the promise: mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals”.

“Persons with disabilities make up the world’s largest and most disadvantaged minority”, stated H.E. Dr. Tej Bunnag, former Foreign Minister of Thailand and currently Chairperson of the Executive Board of the APCD Foundation addressing the event. “The numbers are shocking: an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s poorest persons are those with disabilities; 98 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school...”, he added. “Although many commitments have been made by the international development community to include persons with disabilities in all aspects of development, there is a gap between policy and practice”.

The event aimed to address this very gap and find the most effective ways to bridge it.

“After decades of work, the ideas of a rights-based approach and disability-inclusive development, a philosophy of ‘nothing about us without us’ – all of these concepts have become the norm. Yet the daily reality that we face reminds us that our rights on paper have not been translated into practical reality”, noted Mr. Bkom Limpiphiphatn, from APCD in his welcoming statement.

“Our Make the Right Real campaign calls for the accelerated ratification and implementation of the CRPD”, stated Ms. Nanda Krairiksh, Director, Social Development Division of ESCAP. “We all have a vision of an inclusive society that upholds the rights of persons with disabilities. Today, we will explore ways to “Make the Right Real”.

The event also featured a roundtable discussion on challenges and progress made on national legislation with regard upholding the rights of persons with disabilities moderated by Mr. Kavi Chongkittavorn, Host of Inside Asia and former Senior Editor of The Nation. The discussion highlighted in particular the legal and information related barriers faced by persons with disabilities, including those that are deaf.

Roundtable participants included Mr. Yoshikazu Ikehara, Attorney at Law, Tokyo Advocacy Law Office; Ms. Panomwan Boontem, President of the Association of Thai Deaf Children & Woman Network Federation; Ms. Yoshimi Horiuchi, Coordinator for the Institute on Disability and Public Policy; and Senator Monthian Buntan of Thailand.