On behalf of the United Nations office in Azerbaijan, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all the participants and especially those who have come a long way to this important forum and beautiful city of Baku.
I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to say few words at the opening session of this forum dedicated to inclusive sport and education.
The Special Olympics Youth Forum creates a unique opportunity to celebrate the confidence, determination, and acceptance that define the athletes of the Special Olympics every single day.
Today it’s crucial to not only rejoice the achievements of the Special Olympics movement, but also recommit ourselves to continuing our efforts to eliminate the barriers that still impede full enjoyment of human rights by all persons with disabilities including the young people.
Youth constitute one of the largest population groups across the world. While many young people face daunting challenges as regards their health, well-being, and socio-economic standing, societal prejudices, barriers and ignorance in many cases contribute to disengagement of the youth with disabilities from the mainstream of societies. As a result, young people with disabilities find themselves excluded, isolated, and deprived of the basic rights and opportunities necessary for their well-being and advancement.
Years of advocacy by the international community led to the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006. This landmark treaty is considered as the most comprehensive human rights convention on disability issues. The CRPD and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offer a unique framework for strengthening the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development.
The rallying cry of the 2030 Agenda is the commitment to “leave no one behind”. The need to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities was specifically included into the Goal 4 on education, Goal 8 on inclusive economic growth, Goal 10 on social, economic and political inclusion, Goal 11 on accessible cities and water resources and transport and Goal 17 on data collection and monitoring.
However, to translate these goals into policies and actions, resources and partnerships are needed that include Governments, civil society actors, international development organizations, and the private sector. Most importantly, persons with disabilities themselves should be given an opportunity to get engaged and play an active role in the design and implementation of the projects and programmes concerning their rights and well-being.
We are pleased to note that Azerbaijan ratified the CRPD in 2009 and has taken steps to protect and promote the rights of persons with different forms of intellectual and physical disabilities. The review of the latest Concluding Observations of the CRPD Committee (2014) indicated positive efforts made by the Government to improve the legal and policy framework including implementation of the State programmes on de-Institutionalization (2006-2015) and Inclusive Education (2005-2009). In addition, a Working Group was established under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to coordinate implementation of the CRPD. And recently, a new State Programme on Inclusive Education was endorsed for 2018-2024.
Despite these achievements, some gaps remain in harmonization of all legislations with the human rights-based model of disability, prohibition of multiple forms of discrimination faced by the women and girls with disabilities, elimination of negative stereotypes, development of a comprehensive accessibility plan to promote independent life style and regular collection of data disaggregated by sex, age and disability.
The UN in Azerbaijan is committed to working with its partners to improve the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities in Azerbaijan using rights-based approaches.
This is to ensure that every single person with disability is able to pass through “the once-closed doors” into a world of equality and non-discrimination and acquire the sense of self-esteem and confidence that will last a lifetime.
I wish you all a successful event and thank you for your attention.