In a statement delivered yesterday at the United Nations by Hussain Saeed Abdulla Ahmad Al Shaikh, Assistant Under-Secretary for Social Welfare Affairs – Ministry of Community Development, the UAE affirmed that making the integration and empowerment of persons with disabilities an integral part of its comprehensive national strategy has contributed to creating equal opportunities for all persons with disabilities throughout the country.
The statement was delivered at the general debate of the 9th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, from 14-16 June 2016.
Al Shaikh mentioned that “the UAE’s political leadership believes that investing in people is an investment in inclusive sustainable development. If given the appropriate opportunities and provided with an enabling environment, all can participate in the development of their societies.”
He referred to the UAE constitution that guarantees the right for persons with disabilities to live in dignity as equal citizens, including their right to work and participate in all aspects of life. He added that “policies aimed at empowering persons with disabilities and their full integration in society are central to UAE national strategies, such as the UAE Vision 2021, the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and Dubai Strategic Plan 2021.
Al Shaikh also pointed out that in order to achieve the UAE leadership’s vision of full access and inclusion of persons with disabilities by 2020, UAE ministries and relevant entities are implementing measures aimed at promoting equal access to education, employment and community participation, based on international standards and best practices. These include efforts to enhance the integration of persons with disabilities in education, early childhood intervention services, as well as training for care workers, vocational training for persons with disabilities and initiatives to create inclusive and accessible urban environments. These efforts have proven to be successful in bettering the situation of persons with disabilities in the UAE. For instance, the number of students with disabilities attending UAE public schools has doubled and the participation of persons with disabilities in the labor force has increased, both in the public and private sector.
Al Shaikh noted that the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will depend on the integration of the rights of persons with disabilities in all fields of development, in accordance with the concept of “leaving no one behind.”
He also cited numerous examples from around the world showing that disabilities do not impede people from participating effectively and productively in society, highlighting the important contributions of persons with disabilities the development of their communities. “It is great that in the first year after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development the international community is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the accession of 11 new parties to the convention. More gains have been achieved for persons with disabilities at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, deepening our commitment to safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities and acknowledging their critical contributions”.
Al Shaikh expressed that the UAE looks forward to the 2016 United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), and hopes that the outcome will contribute to mainstreaming disability into all aspects of development and urban planning. He also noted that in light of the projected increase in the number of persons with disabilities, the international community must enhance national and international strategies to empower persons with disabilities and include them as effective partners in development.
He drew attention to the Sustainable Development Goal 5 that calls for gender equality and women empowerment. He stressed the importance of focusing on women and girls with disabilities, who are often facing multiple discrimination. In this context, he referred to the special initiatives and programmes implemented by UAE entities to enable women with disabilities through vocational training and access to finance.
The UAE’s delegation to the 9th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was headed by Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations, and consisted of Hussain Saeed Abdulla Ahmad Al Shaikh, Assistant Under-Secretary for Social Welfare Affairs at the Ministry of Community Development, Dr. Alya Humaid Saqer Humaid AlQassimi, Executive Director of Development and Social Welfare – Community Development Authority of Dubai, Reem Mohamed AbdulJalil Al Fahim, Chief Executive Officer, SEDRA Foundation and Abdulla Ismail Abdulla Al Kamali, Acting President of Special Needs Sector – Zayed Higher Organization.