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Sixth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities-Statement of the PR of Greece, Ambassador M. Spinellis

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Sixth Session of the Conference of States Parties
to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Michel Spinellis,
Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations

Thank you Mr. Chair.

Greece aligns itself with the statement delivered earlier by the EU.

Over the last half century, the world has made significant progress in addressing the protection and promotion of human rights and other rights of persons. But as conditions for many of the world’s vulnerable groups are improving, identifying whom and how to protect and assist has become more complex. Among these groups, persons with disabilities still face discrimination and our society owes to direct its full attention and priority.

Greece takes pride in the fact that despite the financial crisis, our commitment towards disability rights has never been stronger. In this respect, allow me to mention briefly some of the measures we have undertaken.

- We have published a comprehensive «Guide for Disabled Citizens», which assists disabled people to become aware of their rights in order to fully enjoy them.
-Funds have been allocated for the transportation of disabled children to specially equipped schools.
-All public works contracts are now contingent on persons with disabilities having accessibility to the public works being developed.
- Furthermore, a program of accessibility in municipalities has been established and the task of monitoring its implementation is assigned to local mayors, while a general inspector is responsible for overseeing these projects on a national level. This is an example of local action being bankrolled by national resources and political will, as well as providing the institutional structure for effective community-based rehabilitation and habilitation of disabled people.

At the same time, we acknowledge that all this is not enough and that there is much crucial work that still needs to be done, especially for women and children with disabilities. But it is the overall conviction that disabled people have the same rights and entitlements that non-disabled people do that spurs us forward. We have to bear in mind that these are inalienable rights, rather than mere State obligations.

Lack of available funds is only an excuse not to make significant progress in fulfilling our obligations to disabled people; what is most needed is the will and commitment of national agendas. NGO’s and civil society organizations are to be commended for doing their part in raising awareness and international support for the disability cause. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of the International Disability Alliance, whose leadership on the issue has provided tangible results. We should always bear in mind that the spirit and the letter of the Convention are to constantly engage with people with disabilities and to do nothing for them without them.  

Moreover, encouraging private sector entities to partner with the public sector and civil society is yet another cost-effective method in pursuing this goal, and one that will go a long way in ensuring the economic empowerment of disabled people.

Disabilities were left out of the MDG’s the last time around. But moving forward with the post-2015 agenda, we must refine our goals, and focusing on the rights of disabled people should be a central tenet of the SDG’s.

Our focus on people with disabilities demonstrates not only a desire to correct injustices against them, but is a signal of the progress we have made in other areas that now allows us to deal with these problems head-on. Therefore, the international community should seize every opportunity to include disability as a crosscutting issue in our global agenda.

Thank you.

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