Concluding remarks by Mr. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka and Vice-Chair of the
16th Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
15th June 2023
Thank you, Mr. Chairman! Thank you for giving me the floor!
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Over the last three days we have deliberated upon the latest developments in the implementation of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, both from a national perspective as well as an international perspective. There is no doubt much more work to do but I think all of us can to a certain extent be satisfied that there is forward momentum in creating that vital awareness that those who are disabled have an important role to play in contributing to the well-being of their respective societies and it is incumbent on all states to ensure that they are given that opportunity to provide that contribution.
If one goes back in history when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, within those eight goals, 21 targets and 60 indicators, disabilities were mentioned only once and that too with respect to women giving birth in unhygienic conditions and becoming disabled afterwards. Thereafter, the discourse on disabilities was given the necessary framework and voice with the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Our annual deliberations have ensured that the rights of persons with disabilities are reflected in the global discourse taking place in multiple forums, whether it is the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, at the International Telecommunications Union, the World Health Organization as well as others. Change, is taking place but not that the pace that we all would like to see. Therefore, it is incumbent on each and every one of us to take the key messages that have emanated from these sessions back to our capitals, back to our countries where groundwork needs to be done, and to make that real difference that will enable all persons with disabilities to participate as equal partners and dignified human beings in the day-to-day life of our societies. As the late scientist Prof. Stephen Hawkings said, “We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.”
As a Vice-chair of the Bureau, it has been a great privilege to work under the Chairmanship of His Excellency Tariq Ladeb of Tunisia and alongside my fellow colleagues Tasoz Kezas from Greece, Ekaterina Lortkipanidze of Georgia and Marlyn Thompson of Panama to organize this session. We have had the participation of over 1000 delegates, which is testimony to the global interest that this conference generates. It was also my added pleasure to have co-chaired the roundtable on “Digital Accessibility for persons with disabilities”, which I believe is the new frontier that needs to be won in our common endeavor to ensure the rights of the disabled.
I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Secretariat for being the backbone in organizing this conference and providing the Bureau with the necessary support and the information to take informed decisions on behalf of all of us.
Finally, as we continue on our journey let us remember how far we have come, not just how far we have to go. We are not where we want to be, but neither are we where we used to be.