DUSHANBE, December 4, 2011, Asia-Plus  -- In his message marking the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on December 3 that although there has been significant progress in raising awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and many countries have committed to protect their rights through international agreements, they still experience unequal conditions.

“Persons with disabilities experience higher rates of poverty and deprivation and are twice as likely to lack health care,” Ban said. “Employment rates of persons with disabilities in some countries are as low as one third of that of the overall population.”

An estimated 15 per cent of the world’s population has a disability and over two thirds of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, where the gap in primary school attendance rates between children with disabilities and others ranges from 10 per cent to 60 per cent.

“This multi-dimensional exclusion represents a huge cost, not only to persons with disabilities but to society as a whole. This year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities reminds us that development can only be sustainable when it is equitable, inclusive and accessible for all,” Ban said.

“Persons with disabilities need therefore be included at all stages of development processes, from inception to monitoring and evaluation,” he added.

Echoing Ban’s remarks, UN General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said development cannot be inclusive without implementing policies and programs to help persons with disabilities.

“As we work towards the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and as the agreed date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, let us seize all opportunities to ensure the inclusion of disability in the development agenda post-2015,” he said.

Al-Nasser stressed that States already have the tools to make progress on this issue and urged countries which have not done so to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Worldwide, the link between disability, poverty and social exclusion is clear and direct. Yet we have at our finger tips international human rights instruments that protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities,” Al-Nasser said in his message for the day, celebrated on December 4.

“It is only if the convention is implemented at the national level that it can have any positive impact on the lives of persons with disabilities,” he added.

The convention, which came into force in 2008, aims to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities. It has been signed by 153 States and ratified by 107.