Remarks by Dr. Ashok Nigam UNRC on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Saudi Arabia workshop

Jan 10, 2017


Your Excellency Mr. Ali Al-Ghafis, Minister of Labor and Social Development

Your Excellency Dr. Bandar Al-Aiban, President of Human Rights Commission,

Distinguished guests,

Al Salaam Alaikum

I am pleased to be with you today on the occasion of this workshop on the Rights of Persons with Disability.  I thank you for the opportunity to address this workshop.

Under the Technical Cooperation Programme between the Saudi Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the program works to promote awareness and capacity building in the application of human rights approaches in many areas. One of those areas is to strengthen public awareness of and actions called for by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Convention affirms that disabled people have the same rights as everyone else in society.

Excellencies, distinguished guests,

The rights of individuals with disabilities are grounded in a human rights framework based on the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international covenants on human rights and related human rights instruments.

Persons with disabilities are entitled to exercise their social, economic and cultural rights on an equal basis with others. The full participation of persons with disabilities benefits society as their individual contributions enrich all spheres of life and this is an integral part of an individual's and society's well-being and progress of a society for all.

Saudi Arabia is committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It recognizes that both the SDGs and the Saudi Vision 2030 call for inclusive processes of development whereby all stakeholders get involved, not only in realization of the goals and targets but ensuring that the benefits reach all people. The overarching principle of the SDGs is to “leave no one behind”.  This applies not just in terms of social, economic and environmental well-being but very much to people with disabilities.

We cannot transform our world and achieve the SDGs without the inclusiveness of everyone. Disability is referenced in various parts of the SDGs and specifically in parts related to education, growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements.

Goal 4 of the SDGs calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of life-long learning opportunities and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities.

Goal 8 calls for the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.

Goal 11 would make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable.

Goal 17 stresses that in order to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, the collection of data and monitoring and accountability of the SDGs are crucial. Member States, including Saudi Arabia, are called upon to enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, which would significantly increase the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data that is also disaggregated by disability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Around the world, the rights and well-being of people with disabilities are being recognized as a priority and integrated into social and humanitarian policies, programmes and activities at all levels.

Human rights of disabled people in the Kingdom must be expanded as a matter of priority in order to ensure fairness, respect, equality and dignity for those with impairments.  The Kingdom is already doing a lot for disabled people and I would like to compliment and give my appreciation for these efforts.  This workshop is a reflection of that commitment.  We need to answer the question ‘are disabled people’s human rights not only explicitly referred to in policies and strategies, but also enacted in the services being provided?’

Specific rights in need of expansion to enable disabled people to be treated fairly and to be fully involved in all aspects of society, fall into six categories:

·       the right to education

·       the right to accessible environment

·       the right to accessible transport

·       the right to employment, training and occupation

·       the right to health care and social welfare including the right to housing

·       the right to have equal human rights acknowledged and respected

As we implement Vision 2030 and the SDGs, people with disabilities must be an integral part of our national priority, planning, and actions. Involving disabled people as the principal commentators on their human rights will best support expansion of those rights in the Kingdom.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Human Rights Commission for their efforts and cooperation with the United Nations to help make a better world for people with disabilities.

I wish you every success for this workshop.



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