'Guaranteeing rights of disabled persons obligation for all'
Friday, 29 February 2008

UNB, Dhaka

The chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed, has said despite resource constraints, Bangladesh is firmly committed to addressing the diverse needs of persons with disabilities within and outside the country.

He said it has become both a challenge and an obligation for all to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

The head of the military-controlled government made the remarks while inaugurating the 3rd General Assembly and Conference of Asia and Pacific Disability Forum at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre, jointly organised by the National Forum of Organisations Working with the Disabled and APDF on Wednesday.

It is estimated that approximately 600 million people live in today's world with disabilities — and two-thirds of the global population having disabilities live in the Asia-Pacific region, Fakhruddin told the function. Around 450 participants, 150 of them foreigners from 27 countries, are participating in the 3-day meet.

The theme of the conference is 'Disability and Development—Practical Strategies'. The special assistant to the chief adviser for social welfare ministry, MA Malek, secretary of social welfare ministry, MA Hye Howlader, director, Network Operation for the Human Development Network, World Bank, Nicholas J Krafft and chairperson of APDF Judy Wee also spoke in the inaugural session.

The NFOWD president, Khandokar Zahirul Alam, presided. Senior-most disability rights activist and professional in Bangladesh and director of Impact Foundation Bangladesh, Mansur Ahmed Choudhuri, presented the keynote paper at the function. Persons with disabilities, local and foreign delegates, NGO leaders and distinguished personalities were present at the function.

The chief adviser said the progress so far made had undoubtedly improved the situation of handicapped persons in Bangladesh, but there was still a large agendum that need to be addressed with priority. Steps should be taken on an urgent basis, including revision of the Government Rules of Business, for catering the needs of disabled persons.

Amendment to the Disability Welfare Act, in accordance with the provisions of UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is also an imperative, he told the assembly. He urged the legal experts, policymakers, development practitioners and activists with disabilities to initiate the process of consultation with stakeholders on those issues.

'The foremost challenge for all of us at the moment is strong social and political commitment on the subject backed by administrative and legislative measures,' he observed. He said elimination of discrimination against persons with disabilities in existing legislative and policy structures also need immediate attention.

And there is also an urgent need for mainstreaming disability issues at all levels of development planning to provide equal and non-discriminatory opportunities to them. Fakhruddin mentioned that government-NGO collaboration in catering the needs of disabled persons in Bangladesh has a proven track record and was recognised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific in 2001.

Disability issues have also been included in the National Poverty Reduction Strategy, he said. Referring to government's various steps for the welfare and dignity of the disabled, he said the present government had signed and subsequently ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities within a short period after assumption of office.

He said Bangladesh was the first member-state of the OIC, second member-state of SAARC, third member-state of Commonwealth and eighth member-state of the United Nations to ratify this important UN instrument. He further said the government had appointed 46 focal points for dealing with the needs of disabled persons in various ministries, divisions and agencies.

The agencies have been directed to prepare plans and programmes aimed at promoting services for people with disabilities for inclusion in the Annual Development Programme. He said his caretaker government had approved the restructuring of national Foundation for Development of Disabled Persons as a quasi-government autonomous institution. And the institution has already started its operation with financial support from the government as well as the World Bank.

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