12th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
H.E. Dr. Rohan Perera
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN
Sri Lanka welcomes holding this year’s Session under the theme “Ensuring inclusion of persons with disabilities in a changing world through the implementation of the CRPD”. Rapid technological advancement over recent decades certainly brings great opportunities for persons with disabilities, but also includes its own set of challenges. While information and communication technologies (ICTs) and assistive technology play a critical role in enabling and empowering persons with disabilities, special care must be taken to ensure that these technologies are effectively harnessed and that no one is left behind. We note, for example, that the majority of those who need assistive technology do not have access to it. We must thus work to remove barriers and ensuring equal opportunities for persons with disabilities to access technology, digitalization and ICTs.
Sri Lanka continues to recognize the importance of prioritizing those with disabilities, allowing for their access to resources and services. This foundation for inclusiveness is enshrined within our Constitution, which guarantees equality to all its citizens, and allows for special provisions to be made for the advancement of disabled persons. The Constitution of Sri Lanka guarantees through Article 12 non-discrimination based on disability and assures respect, dignity and individual autonomy for Persons with Disabilities. Further, the Protection of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Act No.
28 of 1996 provides that ‘no person with a disability shall be discriminated against on the ground of such disability in recruitment for any employment or office or admission to any educational institution’. The country’s long-standing welfare policies and programmes further contribute to ensuring that no one is left behind.
Furthermore, there are a large number of social protection programmes implemented by Government agencies targeted towards the poor and other vulnerable groups including those with disabilities. These include the Samurdhi program- the main poverty alleviation and disability assistance program in the country and the establishment of the Welfare Benefit Board (WBB) in 2016. With regard to improving the well-being of the differently-abled, Sri Lanka is focusing on supporting targeted welfare programmes for poor, severely disabled people and developing livelihoods through Community Based Rehabilitation. Sri Lanka continues to work on the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, which envisions Sri Lanka’s vision for human rights from 2017-2021 and gives special focus to those with disabilities. The plan works to combat barriers in accessing services for persons with disabilities namely environmental barriers, transportation barriers, communication barriers and cultural barriers which would ensure their full participation and inclusion in civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres.
However, a number of gaps and challenges yet remain. Recent census data reveals that nearly one fourth of 5-14 year old children with disabilities are not in school. Moreover, participation in education declines with age: around 55.4% of the disabled population aged 15-19 and 86% of the disabled population aged 20-24 years were not engaged in any educational activity or vocational training.
Additionally, attention is needed to increase facilities and access to education for the disabled, by improving related school infrastructure, implementing appropriate training programmes for special education teachers, as well as nurturing appropriate mindsets of principals, teachers, and fellow-students in accommodating and assisting differently-abled children throughout their school career. To this end, the Government of Sri Lanka has pledged to improve education access for the differently abled through more targeted education programmes. This is another area where technology and IT can be used to better serve students with disabilities.
Sri Lanka also acknowledges with appreciation this year’s cross-cutting theme of awareness raising. This continues to be a priority in the country, with the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) recognizing the goals of increased disability sensitization and awareness among the public sector, and increasing visibility for disability in and through the media.
Finally, we continue to emphasize the need for high-quality disability statistics and disaggregation of data by disability status.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set out an ambitious global vision: to reach and empower those who are left behind, including persons with Disabilities. Sri Lanka stands fully committed to this goal and to the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.