High Level International Disability Forum

October 18, 2019

18 October 2019

National Library, Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Opening statement by Dr (Ms) Pratibha Mehta,

UN Resident Coordinator a.i. 

Your Excellencies,

Mr. Azim Ibrohim, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Tajikistan,

Mr. Nasim Khoja Olimzoda, Minister of Health and Social Protection of Population of the Republic of Tajikistan,

Mr. Tasnim Atatrah, World Health Organization representative a.i. in Tajikistan and Head of the Country Office,

Ms. Gunta Anca, Secretary of the European disability Forum,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me today to participate at the High-Level International Forum dedicated to the persons with disabilities, who comprise 15 per cent of the world’s population, or roughly about one billion people, of whom 80 per cent live in developing countries and are largely poor. In Tajikistan, there are officially registered around 150 thousand people  living with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities often face discrimination and exclusion on a daily basis, in particular, pervasive exclusion from development programmes and funds, as well as all areas of economic, political, social, civil and cultural life, employment, education, healthcare and are under-representation in decision-making and political participation.

For example, the International Labour Organization estimates that excluding people with disabilities from economy can rob countries of as much as 7 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development attaches utmost importance to inclusion of all people to ensure that no one is left behind in development process. Realizing the human rights of persons with disabilities is a matter of justice and common-sense investment in our common future.

The Agenda 2030 is disability-inclusive and 17 SDGs aim to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, provide quality inclusive education and health services, create jobs and enable equal access to justice. These goals will not be achieved without inclusion of people living with disabilities therefore it is important that men, women and children living with disabilities are included as a target group in the national road map to implement SDGs and the new MTDP.  

I would like to commend the Government of Tajikistan for signing last year the most important human rights instrument related to the rights of persons with disabilities –  the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Government has committed to ratify the Convention and currently is developing a roadmap for its ratification in 2020.

The National Programme on Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities in Tajikistan for 2017-2020 has served as the basis to improve health, rehabilitation, and creating equal opportunities for social protection for persons with disabilities. Currently Tajikistan is formulating the new National Strategy on Education Development until 2030 which is an excellent opportunity to ensure inclusive education system, also keeping the special needs of children with disabilities in mind as currently schools are not equipped to accommodate students with special needs, nearly less than 40% of children known to have disabilities have access to education, while only 32% of them are in mainstream schools.

However, the biggest challenge that people living with disabilities face is stigma and discrimination, which not only result in exclusion, but also violence and psychological problems. Investment in public awareness and creating a tolerant society, which respects differences is essential.

Equally necessary is participation of people with disabilities in public policy making and investing in empowering CSOs, Disabled People’s Organizations and increasing their access to information through appropriated means of communication.

In June 2019 at the annual Conference on the CRPD, UN Secretary General launched the new UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, which aims to raise the standards of the United Nations performance on disability inclusion across the board and make the UN fully accessible to all, especially for the persons with disabilities. The UN Strategy can also help governments, NGOs and private sector to become ‘an employer of choice’ for persons with disabilities.

Also a new global UN-EU multi-year Spotlight Initiative to promote elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, including those living with disabilities, who suffer double discrimination – first – because of their gender and –  second – because they are differently able. I am very pleased that Tajikistan is one of the countries selected to implement the Spotlight Initiative.

The UN is committed to further work with all partners to promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable development of Tajikistan. We hope that our contribution will help to ensure that persons with disabilities are given equal access and voice in society, so that they can realize their fullest possible potential.

Thank you!