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Dalziel: International Day of Disabled Persons

International Day of Disabled Persons: 2007 Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Award

Speech by Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson, delivered on her behalf by Hon. Lianne Dalziel.

3 December 2007
2.30pm Ministry of Social Development, Bowen State Building

Rau rangatira maa,
tenei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ra.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

[Distinguished guests, greetings to you gathered here for this purpose today. Greetings once, twice, three times to you all.]

Governor-General, Susan, representatives of the United States Embassy, Commissioners, Mayors, and other distinguished guests. Your presence here today sends a clear signal about the importance of this event.

It is a privilege to be speaking here on behalf of Ruth Dyson, Minister for Disability Issues, who is sadly attending Emma Agnew's funeral in Christchurch.

Today we are marking International Day of Disabled Persons: a day on which we celebrate the contribution of disabled people to our society and take time to promote an understanding of disability issues.

And what better way to celebrate the Day, than to announce an outstanding achievement for New Zealand.

It is with great pleasure and pride that I am announcing that New Zealand has been awarded the prestigious 2007 Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award. The Award recognises and encourages progress by nations toward the fulfilment of the goals of the UN's World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons - that of the ''full participation'' of disabled people in social life and development, and of ''equality''.

This means opportunities equal to those of the whole population and an equal share in the improvement in living conditions resulting from social and economic development.

It is an honour that the international disability community - at the most senior levels - has recognised our efforts over the past few decades, for improving the ability of disabled New Zealanders to lead ordinary lives.

Thirty years ago, disabled New Zealanders lived lives that were often quite separate from their families and communities. Many disabled people lived in institutions. Participation in mainstream schooling, paid work and contributing to community life were not on the agenda for most disabled people.

In response to calls from disabled people themselves, we have come a long way. During the eighties and nineties, many disabled people moved from institutions into their communities. Disabled children now routinely participate in mainstream schooling.

Last year our Labour-led government passed the NZ Sign Language Act making New Zealand Sign Language this country's third official language.

This year we repealed the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion 1960 Act.
The provisions came into force on Friday, clearing the way for disabled New Zealanders employed in sheltered workshops to have the same conditions, rights and entitlements as other workers, and just in time for today, International Day of Disabled People, where the theme is "Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities."

I am very pleased that the Roosevelt Award particularly recognises the New Zealand Disability Strategy as integral to our approach in promoting the interests of disabled people. The Strategy sets out a vision for a fully inclusive society. We will know we have realised that vision when disabled people can truly say they live in a "society that highly values our lives and continually enhances our full participation."

Most people in this room will be aware that New Zealand played a critical role in developing and negotiating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons.

In March this year, the minister joined representatives of United Nations member states, along with 330 non-government organisations, at the signing ceremony in New York for the new Convention. This was the culmination of over four years' hard work by representatives of disability sector organisations and UN member countries.

The new Convention is the first UN human rights treaty or convention for fifteen years and the first this century.

We are enormously proud of the leadership role New Zealand played in negotiating the UN Convention - under the skilful guidance of Ambassador Don MacKay.

I particularly acknowledge the hard work and contribution of the disability sector representatives throughout the process, and the Office for Disability Issues and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. These groups all worked together to achieve this significant milestone. Our delegation set the tone for negotiations by modelling the 'nothing about us, without us' approach and influenced other delegations to do the same.

The Roosevelt Award primarily acknowledges our work within New Zealand to promote and advance the interests of disabled New Zealanders. There is no doubt though that the international leadership role we played in achieving the UN Convention had a part to play.

I've been told that for the first time in the history of the Roosevelt Award, there was no dispute over which country should receive it. New Zealand stood out as the clear choice - and we should feel proud of that.

In May our Governor General will travel to New York to attend the formal Award ceremony. This will include the gift of a bust of President Roosevelt to be displayed in our Parliament Buildings.

In addition, as part of the Award, a cash prize of US $50,000 will be given to a New Zealand disability non-government organisation that is making an outstanding contribution to improving the lives of disabled people.

The selection process for the recipient of this prize is now open and the Minister invites New Zealand disability NGOs to apply.

Application forms are available here this afternoon - and will also be available from the Office for Disability Issues, or on its website.

Applications will close on 15 February and Ruth Dyson hopes to announce the successful NGO very soon after that date.

So let's join together in celebrating New Zealand's progress towards achieving a society in which disabled people are valued and their families and caregivers are supported.

This journey is not over - we have many challenges ahead.

But this afternoon, I think you will all agree that New Zealand has done itself proud and has been recognised on the world stage.

Thank you for being here.


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