PERMANENT MISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF
SIERRA LEONE TO THE UNITED NATIONS
336 East 45th Street, New York NY 10017
STATEMENT BY FREDERICK JOHN MOMODU KAMARA, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF COMMISSIONER, NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITY (NCPD)
AT THE NINETH SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE OF STATES PARTIES
TO THE UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
NEW YORK, 14TH – 16TH JUNE 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me join previous speakers in congratulating you and members of the Bureau on your election, and I wish to assure you of our full support in the execution of your mandate. Permit me also to salute the Secretary-General as well as the President of the General Assembly for keeping the issues of disability as one of the priority agenda items of this Organization. The theme for this year’s conference, “Implementing the 2030 Development Agenda for All Persons with Disabilities: Leaving no one behind”, could not have been more appropriate; it is a clear testimony to the Secretariat’s determination to support, without any exception, the interests of persons with disabilities across the world. Every disability can be a limitation and a nuisance to the person with the disability physically, socially and even psychologically. An inclusive approach as espoused by this year’s theme is therefore very reassuring.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
We are aware that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which sought to end global poverty and hunger, glaringly omitted the needs of persons with disabilities. That is why the theme for this year’s conference resonates very well with us. It ushers in a new era in disability inclusion frameworks. While there is still more to be done, this renewed commitment of the United Nations in adopting the global Agenda 2030 is a watershed in our collective strives for both inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities the world over.
Sierra Leone wishes to reiterate its commitment to providing the enabling environment for persons with disabilities in line with established principles. The current post-Ebola strategic recovery priorities include a social protection component aimed at addressing the needs of vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities. In the last two months, Sierra Leone recorded remarkable progress in promoting the interests of persons with disabilities through the setting up of a committee for the establishment of the Medical Board, to ascertain a person’s disability category and identify deserving candidates for the disability certificate that should enable persons with disabilities to access free health services in public hospitals and clinics.
The conferment of certificates to thirty-four teachers of the blind and visually impaired at the University of Makeni in May this year is further evidence of progress towards addressing disability issues especially in the education sector, by providing education for all, including children with disabilities.
As a country, Sierra Leone has made much progress in raising awareness on disability issues. You may recall that in our address last year, we reported the significant strides the Government had made in addressing issues relating to persons with disabilities through the enactment of legislative instruments and, very importantly, the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, a statutory body headed by my humble self, a blind person. Also, the election of a person with a disability to the national Legislature further demonstrated the level of acceptance and confidence of the general public in persons with disabilities. Those developments were not only an inspiration and motivation for the disabled population of Sierra Leone, but also a historic milestone that provided a vital framework for the rightful inclusion of persons with disabilities in decision making relating to matters of their welfare and in the national development process. The effect was a lift in spirit with a new sense of self-esteem among the disabled population as well as igniting in them a determination to prove themselves worthy and valuable contributors to the development of their communities and the society as a whole. These are measures taken to ensure that, consistent with the Agenda 2030, the disabled in Sierra Leone are “not left behind”.
However, the implementation of a disability inclusive national development agenda still remains a daunting challenge to be addressed sooner, rather than later. Many of our people are uneducated, unskilled and largely unemployed. There are still many of them that are homeless and street beggars. Those who are in schools and tertiary institutions are also facing lots of challenges with acquiring the appropriate learning materials, enhancement equipment and transportation.
Last year, Sierra Leone participated in the 8th Session of the Conference when we and our two nearest neighbours – Guinea and Liberia – were fighting the devastating Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak which, in addition to the high death toll, also ruined our economies and traumatized our populations. The much-lauded rapid economic growth of pre-Ebola Sierra Leone was reversed. However, with the steadfastness of government, the resilience of our people and tremendous support of the international community, our countries have completely defeated the pandemic with WHO declaring all three countries free of the virus. We owe that victory to the partnership of the global community in the fight, for which I feel obligated to re-echo our profound thanks and gratitude.
We are also very grateful to our partners for the pledges made to contribute to the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) to finance our post Ebola Strategic Recovery Priorities, which provide for, among other targets, the enhancement of further empowerment of persons with disabilities. We look forward to the fulfillment of those pledges to assist in achieving the objectives of the Strategic Recovery Priorities in building the required resilience to regain our lauded socio-economic development trajectory of the pre-Ebola period. We must map out practical strategies that would ensure that no one is left behind, including persons with disabilities, in the implementation of the 2030 development agenda. “Disability is not inability” and given the tools and space, we are committed to make valuable contribution to society.
Let me therefore conclude by stating that, while noting Sierra Leone’s remarkable achievements in promoting and protecting the rights, dignity and wellbeing of persons with disabilities, we still recognize that the road to mainstreaming disability is yet far and bumpy. This is why, and in view of the devastating socio-economic impact of the Ebola Virus epidemic, I would like to further restate the appeal my delegation made last year to our development partners for the provision of financial, material and technical support in areas of special needs experts and expertise, including but not limited to sign language trainers, orientation and mobility trainers etc., to significantly improve the lives of persons with disabilities in our country.
We stand ready to work assiduously with the International Community and key stakeholders, including the private sector, to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities, in the spirit of the implementation of the 2030 development agenda – to “leave no one behind!” — I count on your kind intervention to assist in our quest to improve the welfare of our people, to make them valuable and equal partners in the development process of our nation.
I thank you for your attention.