Speech by Ms Maria Larsson, Swedish Minister for Elderly Care and Public Health,
Strasbourg, 30 October 2008.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear participants!
As you already know this conference has been arranged in cooperation between Sweden, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers and the Nordic Council of Ministers.
And one objective of the Swedish Chairs of these two organisations is to strengthen the status of disability issues in the work of the Council of Europe and in Nordic cooperation.
Disability issues have therefore been given priority and a prominent place in the programmes of the two Swedish Chairs.
It is high time to start to think about disability issues as questions of human rights.
Around 650 million people with disabilities are dependent on the protection provided by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Convention does not create new rights but aims to remove obstacles that prevent persons with disabilities from enjoying human rights. And it is important to keep in mind that all human rights are indivisible and interdependent.
For Sweden it is important that the continuation of the process is inclusive.
Men and women with disabilities and their representative organisations must be involved in and participate fully in the implementation of the Convention.
People with disabilities must themselves have a major say in the monitoring process.
"Nothing about us without us!"
This motto was often repeated in New York during the negotiations on the UN Convention.
The rights for everyone to participate in society on equal terms should be the main focus.
The results of this conference prove that we have succeeded.
I am very pleased that so many people and nearly all member states have come to Strasbourg to participate in this important work.
You have all contributed to its success!
Europe is ready to work for full inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society.
The UN Convention has been adopted and it is now important that we all work hard to ratify and implement the Convention. It is not enough to simply adjust national legislation, disability policy needs to be mainstreamed in all sectors of society.
Discrimination against people with disabilities must be combated in all areas.
The disability perspective must be a natural, integrated element of every public authority's regular operations. The authorities have to provide service to all citizens on equal terms.
In Sweden the ratification of the UN Convention requires a parliamentary resolution.
The Government's ambition is to have a parliamentary decision on ratification of the Convention and its Protocol by the end of 2008.
In line with the Convention, the Government has an ongoing dialogue with the Swedish Disability Movement.
The Council of Europe Action Plan for People with Disabilities is an excellent regional tool in this work.
This conference has increased knowledge of the content of the UN Convention and of the Council of Europe Action Plan for People with Disabilities. So please use the Action Plan in the implementation work.
Eight years ago, the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliment, decided on a national action plan for disability policies.
The objectives for 2010 includes accessible communications and buildings.
Inadequate accessibility is a crucial obstacle to the participation of people with disabilities in society on equal terms.
As an example, let me mention the first accessible island in our country.
It is situated in the archipelago in Lake Vättern outside the community of Askersund. A lot of difficult Swedish names.
I was very honored to be able to inaugurate it last year.
The municipality has now been certified as an accessible municipality by the Design for All Foundation. And next week they will get their accessibility lag as a symbol.
To speed up developments in the rest of Sweden the Swedish Government, in cooperation with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, has adopted a strategy for how to achieve accessibility by 2010.
It involves easily eliminated obstacles, accessible public transport and an accessible national government administration.
Ladies and gentlemen.
These are historic days!
The first session of the Conference of the States parties to the Convention will take place in New York tomorrow.
The election of twelve members of the Committee will take place on Monday.
This Committee will be of great importance.
It is able to consider complaints from persons with disabilities who claim to be victims of breaches by the state.
This places great responsibility on governments.
Within the international cooperation in the UN system Sweden is also driving the question of the enjoyment by disabled persons of their human rights in the Human Rights Council and the Commission for Social Development.
In addition, Sweden is presenting a resolution on the rights of disabled persons to UNGA's Third Committee along with New Zealand and Mexico. Sweden has long played a proactive role in the Third Committee.
We are also working to ensure that UN convention committees and special rapporteurs have to include the perspective of disabled persons in their work.
Ensuring that the rights of disabled persons are integrated into international development cooperation is another core issue for Sweden.
Some European countries have already ratified the Convention.
Let all of our countries, as member states of Council of Europe, increase our efforts to continue the ratification process!
I am convinced that the new Convention and the Optional Protocol to it will be strong instruments for a fundamental change worldwide.
Thank you for coming and I wish you every success in the efforts in your countries!