Statement by US Ambassador Susan E. Rice International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 3, 2009


The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an opportunity to focus vital attention on the urgent need to end the discrimination against and marginalization of millions of people with disabilities and to taking action to improve the quality of their lives. 

The United Nations estimates that 650 million people – roughly ten percent of the world’s population – are living with a disability. Persons with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, living in every country.  More than 80 percent of persons with disabilities– some 400 million people – live in developing nations, all too often in poverty.  Nearly ninety percent of children with disabilities in the developing world do not attend school nor do they have access to an education, just one of the factors that lead to very high rates of unemployment among disabled people. In addition, women and girls with disabilities face particularly virulent discrimination. 

Discrimination against people with disabilities is not simply unjust; it hinders economic development, limits democracy, and erodes societies.   

This summer, we celebrated the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires equal protection and equal benefit for all citizens, including the 54 million disabled Americans, before the law.  On this important anniversary, President Obama declared that “Disability rights aren’t just civil rights to be enforced here at home. They are universal rights to be recognized and promoted around the world.” 

On July 30, I was proud to sign on behalf of the United States the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the first new human rights convention of the 21st century.   The Treaty urges equal protection and equal benefits under the law for all citizens, rejects discrimination in all its forms, and calls for the full participation and inclusion in society of all persons with disabilities. 

Today I am proud to stand with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he appoints a new UN Messenger of Peace for Disability issues – Stevie Wonder.  The appointment of this renowned artist and internationally recognized leader will help garner worldwide support for those working to protect the rights of the disabled and improve their quality of life.

As much more work lies ahead, today we reaffirm our commitment to create a world where the inherent dignity, worth and independence of all persons with disabilities is honored and respected.


PRN: 2009/292