Mrs Colette Roberts Risden
Director of Social Security
Ministry of Labour and Social Security
to the 47th Session of the Commission on Social Development
on Agenda Item 3 (b):
Review the Plans and Programmes of Action Pertaining
to the Situation of Social Groups
United Nations, New York
6th February 2009
It is with a sense of honour that I speak on behalf of Jamaica on Agenda item 3 (b) especially as we explore the priority theme of social integration and review the plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups. Of critical importance to Jamaica, are older persons and persons with disabilities.
My delegation wishes to align itself with the statements made by Sudan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and by Mexico, on behalf of the Rio Group.
The current Global economic situation that confronts us points even more to the need for the Commission for Social Development and the wider UN system to encourage Member States to maintain their focus on the commitments collectively made at the World Summit for Social Development in 1995 and ultimately achievement of the goal of the creation of a “society for all”. In times of crises, societies may be tempted to abandon or neglect the weak. We must therefore ensure that the vulnerable among us are protected as we continually strive towards an inclusive society.
The report of the Special Rapporteur on disability “Monitoring of the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities”, highlights that though much has been achieved we still have a far way to go in ensuring the protection and full integration of persons with disabilities. The levels of implementation are still below those targeted in the commitments.
Madam Chair, as you may be aware, Jamaica was the first member country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signaling the importance of the issue to my country. The Government has taken the lead in awakening the consciousness of our population of the gains to be derived by having an inclusive society which recognizes the human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities, older persons, and other disadvantaged groups in every area of social, economic and political life. We feel that as a society we cannot progress and achieve the Millennium Development Goals without social integration.
In the upcoming year, the Government of Jamaica intends to examine the nature and scope of all vulnerable groups and sub-groups and identify the gaps in our social protection system. In this regard, the following policies and programmes are being pursued:
1. A comprehensive analysis of the situation of Persons with Disabilities.
2. Legislating a National Disability Rights Act- The proposed Act follows the
main tenets of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Government expects to present the Bill to Parliament in the next legislative year for debates. We recognize that though the legislation is an important step, it alone will not be the panacea to ensure the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Strategic plans have therefore been drafted to effect the legislation and mainstream disability issues in all areas of Government. The process of identifying existing legislations that conflict with the Convention and the new Bill has also begun.
3. Free education policy and the Adoption of a Comprehensive Special Education Policy - Social integration begins with education - it empowers people and promotes social inclusion. In this regard, the Government is committed to the provision of free education up to the secondary level and the inclusion and mainstreaming of children with mild to moderate disabilities in school. Our Education Transformation Programme, previously highlighted in our contribution to the debate on Agenda item 3(a), is far advanced and we believe that “Every Child Can Learn, Every Child Must Learn”
4. Jamaica has a vision of becoming a developed country and of being the country of choice to live, work and raise a family by the year 2030. A comprehensive social protection strategy is one of the main components of the 2030 Vision.
5. Less than a year ago, the Government made a bold and ambitious move by implementing free health care. This provision is significant in improving the health status of the population but especially of the poor, older persons and persons with disabilities who sometimes lack access to health services.
6. Special grant and loan funds have been established to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit among persons with disabilities and the youth. Training initiatives targeted at the youth, youths at risk and persons in receipt of social assistance have been expanded.
7. Migrant workers are among the most vulnerable and often lack social protection. Under the temporary overseas workers programmes, systems have been put in place to ensure that Jamaican workers and their families are protected.
8. Disability and ageing increases one’s vulnerability to poverty. Whilst there is a system of social security and social assistance, consideration is being given to the implementation of a social pension scheme.
9. In implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), older persons have expressed ‘loneliness’ as an issue. In response, the Government is about to implement the LOOP Programme (Linking Our Older Persons). The LOOP is aimed at improving access to services, and strengthening the participation and inclusion of older persons in economic, family and community life.
Madam Chair, let me conclude by saying that Jamaica is committed to the three pillars of development namely, poverty eradication, full employment and social integration. We call on the international community for cooperation and support as we work towards a society for all in these challenging times.
I thank you.