“Persons with disabilities are over-represented among the poorest of the poor. One of the priorities in our human rights work is obviously to promote the rights of disabled women, men and children, and to mainstream disability as part of human rights into all our work so that everything we do – we do in a disability-inclusive way”, totesi Heidi Hautala puheessaan The World Report on Disability -julkaisemistilaisuudessa 13.12.2011.[:]
Ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me a special pleasure to address this event organized jointly by FIDIDA and Ministry for Foreign Affairs on a topic that is very close to my heart.
I also wish to thank WHO and our main speaker Dr. Tom Shakespeare for making available this opportunity to discuss the World Report on Disability here in Finland.
I come from a human rights background. Before I became Finland’s Minister for International Development I chaired the Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament.
Now, as Minister, I have been thinking how best we could promote human rights through development cooperation. At the moment we are preparing a new development policy program for Finland. We are going to adopt a human rights based approach in all of our development cooperation.
Human rights are universal and indivisible. This means that all the rights of all people must be equally promoted in all societies.
As we are all aware, persons with disabilities are over-represented among the poorest of the poor. So, one of the priorities in our human rights work is obviously to promote the rights of disabled women, men and children, and to mainstream disability as part of human rights into all our work so that everything we do – we do in a disability-inclusive way.
Finland is a strong supporter of the United Nations as the most democratic and most important forum of global governance. Therefore, we attach a high value to the operationalization of the youngest human rights instrument of the UN, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – or CRPD in short. We also played an active and constructive role in the negotiations leading to the CRPD. Today we are the leading sponsor of the work of the of the UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
When talking about disability and human rights, I want to emphasize that the dignity, rights and opportunities of persons with disabilities cannot be treated as an issue of social welfare. It is an issue of human rights and human development – and an issue of the main current of our social and economic policies. It is an issue about the right of us all to participate in the main stream of our society as contributors and beneficiaries with equal rights and responsibilities.
Often we hear the argument that people with disabilities are such a small group that it is not that important to take them always into account, to accommodate their needs. This is, of course, an invalid argument.
The World Report on Disability report shows convincingly that there are about a billion people with disabilities in the world. Nobody can claim that this is a small number. It means that 15 % – or one in seven – of world’s women, men and children have some kind of a disability. We also know that there are people with disabilities in every target group that development cooperation aims at reaching.
The promotion of the rights and opportunities of persons with disabilities is not a new objective in Finland’s development cooperation. The women and men present in this room today have been the main champions of disability inclusive Finnish development cooperation over the years. I wish to thank and commend you for the great work that you have done to promote the vision of a society for all through Finnish development cooperation. You have done your work so well that Finland has earned a reputation of being one of the major proponents of disability inclusive development policies globally. This is a reputation we want to maintain – but we are aware that to deserve it we all must continue working hard.
The new World Report on Disability updates our knowledge about the status of disability and persons with disabilities in the world. That is extremely helpful for us at our Ministry. The Report gives us now a solid stepping stone to anchor our disability-inclusive policies on.
We are also very pleased to see that WHO and World Bank have cooperated closely in producing the Report and that they have also involved people with disabilities and their organizations in the process. Furthermore, I have also been very pleased to learn that Finland’s support to the Global Partnership on Disability and Development – the “GPDD” – has facilitated this process.
FIDIDA is one of our long term partner organizations. I want to give a special word of thanks to Ms. Anita Lintula and Ms. Anja Malm of FIDIDA who have done a tremendous work in organizing this event together with us. The co-hosting of this event together with FIDIDA is one of the expressions of our commitment to work with stakeholders, in this case with women and men with disabilities, who are the holders and owners of their rights. “Nothing about us without us” has been the slogan of the Disability Community. We hope to be a good partner in combining the interests of the rights holders and the other stakeholders whose cooperation is necessary for the active materialization of the rights of people with disabilities around the world.
The World Report on Disability provides a common ground for advancing the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities as it is an objective account and a collection of recommendations based on equal participation of all the major stakeholders.
I hope that this event will spark a renewed interest of all the circles in Finland to the global knowledge and understanding of the essence of disability and the ways we can use to promote the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities both at home and in our foreign relations.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you a successful seminar.