President of the 13th COSP, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates.
I congratulate you and the Bureau on your election.
As an early signatory to the CRPD and its Optional Protocol, Bangladesh remains deeply committed to implementing CRPD and upholding the rights of persons with disabilities. As we go through the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 pandemic, we must recognize the additional challenges that are being faced by persons with disabilities. It makes it more urgent that we move beyond awareness to action. To make sure that in our Covid-19 response, we also include the needs of persons with disabilities.
At the national level, our Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has put special emphasis for the development and inclusion of the persons with disabilities in our journey towards inclusive socio-economic development. We have not only put considerable efforts in increasing their access to the basic amenities of day-to-day life to ensure ‘disability inclusion’, but also keeping in mind our obligations under the CRPD.
In line with our CRPD obligations to protect and safeguard the rights and dignity of persons with disability, and their participation in all aspects of life, Bangladesh enacted the Persons with Disabilities’ Rights and the Protection Act – 2013, revoking the Disabled Welfare Act 2001.
Since then, we have implemented a wide range of programmes and strengthened the social safety net provisions towards addressing the needs of persons with disabilities. Last July, the government introduced allowances covering about 1.4 million differently abled persons. NGOs, civil society and other stakeholders are also an important partner in our efforts. We recognize that more needs to be done, especially for certain special groups, such as the aged population, who may be afflicted with age-related disabilities. We are also mindful of the gendered aspect and the need to tailor programmes accordingly.
Bangladesh has made significant progress in recent years in the area of mental health issues and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which have been neglected and stigmatized because of lack of understanding. Alongside specialized schools and institutions, special lessons, facilities and instructors are also being engaged in mainstream schools for autistic children and those suffering from other neurological disorders.
In our national efforts we are also reaching out to the private sector to support disability inclusion policies and measures. The private sector has an important role to play in raising awareness and creating employment opportunities persons with disabilities.
Our differently abled children and youth have been performing in various sectors including sports and culture. For instance, in the Special Olympics in 2019 held in Abu Dhabi, 22 gold medals were won by them.
In December 2018, a visually impaired Bangladeshi youth, Vashkar Bhattacharjee, was recognized by UNESCO for his innovative use of ICT where he developed Bangladesh’s first Accessible Dictionary in four forms for people with visual, print and learning disabilities. These are but a few examples of the potentials of the differently abled if given the opportunity, that are greatly inspiring persons with disabilities to feel empowered and to contribute with others for the overall development of our country.
In conclusion, I would like to underline the need for making available ICT enabled device and services to persons with disabilities. We need to promote assistive technology (AT) and make them more affordable and accessible. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it evidently clear that those with access to services and technology are able to survive through this difficult time. As we build back better and seek a more ‘disability inclusion’ in the work of the UN and everywhere, we would need to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are included in our plan and programmes. It would only be through an inclusive and innovative approach that we can truly make a difference and realize fully the CRPD.
I thank you.