High – level Stakeholders Workshop on Empowerment of People with Disabilities and a Barrier – free Society through Networking and Collaboration
H.E. Mr. Paiboon Wattanasiritham
Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand
And Minister of Social Development and Human Security
High – level Stakeholders Workshop on Empowerment of
People with Disabilities and a Barrier – free Society
through Networking and Collaboration
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
UNCC, Bangkok, Thailand
Mr. Shigeru Mochida, Deputy Executive Secretary of UNESCAP,
Mr. Katsuji Onoda, Resident Representative of JICA in Thailand,
Mr. Jun Niimi, Charge d’ Affaires ad interim, Embassy of Japan and the Permanent Representative of Japan to ESCAP,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Royal Thai Government, I have the great honor and pleasure to welcome all the distinguished delegates attending the High – level Stakeholders Workshop on Empowerment of People with Disabilities and a Barrier – free Society through Networking and Collaboration.
Today, we all live in a global community of interdependent nations. This international community’s interests on disability and development are interwined. In order to help one another achieve a long and lasting prosperity, our efforts must be built on the determination, willingness and spirit for closer cooperation among members of the whole community.
Last year on December 13, after years of hard work by both governmental and non-governmental organizations including persons with disabilities, the international community at the United Nations adopted a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Thailand, together with other countries, was one of the active participants in the drafting process amongst the Asian members of the Working Group to prepare the draft text.
When we look closely at the Asia –Pacific region, we can clearly see that much effort was invested to promote the development of people with disabilities. In 1992, recognizing that the majority of approximately 400 million persons with disabilities in the Asia-Pacific Region were still socially vulnerable without equal rights and opportunities and were left behind in socio-economic development, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) declared 1993 – 2002 as the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons at the 48th Commission Session.
In order to encourage effort throughout the Decade from 1993, a resolution on “Strengthening Regional Support for Persons with Disabilities” was adopted at the 54th UNESCAP Commission Session in 1998. Following this resolution, a project to establish a Center which would facilitate disability-related regional cooperation in alignment with the Decade was developed. In 2001, the Thai Cabinet officially agreed to establish a Center namely the Asia – Pacific Development Center on Disability or APCD in Thailand and approved funding for the program. The Government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has also contributed to the Center since the beginning.
In 2002, UNESCAP agreed to extend the Decade from 2003, and the Biwako Millennium Framework for Actions towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights- based Society for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific was adopted as a regional action plan for the new Decade (BMF) . The APCD was identified as a focal point for the regional cooperation in the BMF. The APCD then jointly collaborated with the Thai Government and other stakeholders such as JICA, the UNESCAP and non-governmental organizations, to serve as a regional center on disability in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific.
The issue of persons with disabilities is of global concern. This is not only a humanitarian issue but also a developmental agenda linked to human rights, human security and poverty eradication. In Thailand, regional initiatives and cooperation reinforce national efforts effectively. Full integration of persons with disabilities into society is a national agenda. The Thai Government has clearly changed its policy from a charity-based approach to a rights-based approach of service provision to persons with disabilities. The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is in the process of revising the LHth thththth egislation on Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Act of 1991 towards a rights-based approach and integration of persons with disabilities into society while enhancing their potential for self-development. Furthermore, campaigns have been embarked upon to awaken public awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities to ensure their inclusion in social and community life.
APCD has 2 main objectives: to empower persons with disabilities and to promote a barrier-free society. Its activities include training, information support, networking and collaboration to promote the full participation and equality of persons with disabilities in society. APCD promotes the human rights of persons with disabilities. In addition, an important goal of APCD activities is to enhance Asia-Pacific regional networking and collaboration; this includes forging cooperation with governmental agencies, international organizations and non-governmental organizations.
The wide range of participation from developing countries in this Region marks an important contribution to the regional effort in addressing the issue of persons with disabilities. It is through effective networking and collaboration that APCD could expand its activities to different countries in the Region. Such collaboration has greatly benefited persons with disabilities and resulted in partnership among multi-stakeholders. The roles of civil society and NGOs are important in promoting and addressing humanitarian and developmental issues by collaborating with government. The APCD’s regional activities have been strengthened and in turn have been able to compliment multilateral approaches to addressing the core issues of persons with disabilities.
Despite my confidence in the strength and potential of the APCD in expanding its regional activities, it is my hope that from now on all government ministries and departments will see the need to cultivate, encourage and foster persons with disabilities and disabled peoples’ organizations as partners in social and economic development. To achieve this, some adjustment and change within the government institutions will have to be made to accommodate this new climate. The APCD itself is improving its administrative structure to enhance more involvement of different stakeholders including persons with disabilities both in and outside Thailand to collaborate more effectively with APCD. APCD will then become an asset of the region rather than of Thailand only. It is expected from this Workshop that technical support and a mechanism to move issues of disability and development forward will be discussed so that APCD can more fully cooperate regionally regarding disability issues.
In addition to such governmental change, I have a vision for how our society as a whole can further foster regional cooperation.
First, we must recognize that resource mobilization is most important. Regional cooperation requires people as much as other resources such as money, expertise, knowledge, material and skills. Individual countries can become involved in various ways.
Second, networking is essential. The establishment of networks and collaboration with governmental, non-governmental and inter-governmental agencies should be promoted. Networks of persons with disabilities must be strengthened and regarded as equal citizens in society. Persons with disabilities will become consumers, partners in policymaking and also advocates. Grass-root networks should be promoted since grass-root organizations implement on a face-to-face level. Equally important is the family, the most basic unit of society; it must be enabled to fulfill its role to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy full human rights and dignity, and flourish as individuals. For persons with disabilities, the environment within the family is extremely important for their quality of life since families create opportunities that support persons with disabilities to achieve their full potential.
Third, knowledge and knowledge management are most valuable. This refers to the search for, collection, exchange, application, development, and so on, of knowledge. Knowledge management is both a science and an art which are being applied and developed widely in Thailand as well as other countries in the region.
Last but not least, inter-regional collaboration should be enhanced. As I stated earlier, disability is an issue of global concern where different initiatives and experiences are developed. Exchange and sharing of regional initiatives in the field of disability, including best practices in the implementation efforts of each region can enlarge and empower people’s experiences and learning. In some situations, it creates greater movement on disability-related activities.
I believe that APCD can play a constructive role in this regard. Uniquely, APCD is the primary mechanism of cooperation among the disability-related agencies of countries in Asia-Pacific Region. The success of APCD requires the understanding and support of everyone concerned. I am sure that, like my government, other governments also await the result of your deliberations and recommendations for new ideas and better ways in which we can cooperate to achieve our targets.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to the Office of Welfare Promotion, Protection, and Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the UNESCAP for their support in organizing this Workshop.
I wish this Workshop all the success in fulfilling its objectives and look forward to receiving the report of its outcome. With this remark, I have the honor to declare the High–level Stakeholders Workshop on Empowerment of People with Disabilities and a Barrier – free Society through Networking and Collaboration open.
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