Kathmandu, 6 December 2019
President of Asian Federation of Intellectual Disabilities,
Chair of the organizing Committee of this Conference,
Delegates, panelists and participants of the conference,
Friends from the media
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Namaskar and Good Evening!
Let me thank the organizers for inviting me to this event. It is a privilege and honor to be here today. I feel close by heart to both the issues and people that this conference was dedicated to.
I thank the AFID for choosing Kathmandu as the venue of this conference. I welcome all international participants in Nepal.
Trust that you have had a comfortable stay and a productive and fruitful outcome.
As you wrap up the conference, I am sure that you had sufficient opportunity to deliberate on the theme of the conference- “Equity, Equality and Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities”. This seems to be a thoughtfully chosen theme which should receive high importance from the Governments, civil society, private sector and the media alike.
According to WHO estimation, about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability and about 200 million people have an intellectual disability.
We must recognize that to be intellectually disabled is not an individual’s choice. It transcends the boundaries and is found in all societies, economies and religions. They are just people with different abilities and we have to support and encourage unleashing their potentials. They are members of our family, our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, uncle and aunts, very much part of our society.
They are right-holders and are entitled every right and benefit that all other members of our society enjoy. They are subject of equal protection of law. We can make an equitable and inclusive society only when we walk the road together.
Let me quote a statement by Stephen Hawking.
“We are all different, but we share the same human spirit. Perhaps it’s human nature that we adapt and survive.”
This group of people requires support, respect, and special enabling provisions to be fully able to enjoy their rights. Socio-psychological and emotional support stands very important. Such a support and special provisions should begin at home and extend to the community and State at large.
It is a responsibility of every civilized and democratic society to render special provisions to the persons with disabilities in general and persons with intellectual disability in particular. All other stakeholders in the society also have their role to play. I am confident that this conference has been able to come up with recommendations to be implemented by all of them.
Ignorance and poverty stand as impediments to the protection of persons with intellectual disability. Therefore, greater awareness, creation of supportive environment, provision of adequate resources and programmatic interventions at all levels should be our priority.
Inclusion of persons with disability becomes critical not to leave anyone behind as we gear up to the implementation of transformative sustainable development goals. We have to encourage them to mingle with, engage in enterprises, let them learn language, speak and communicate in the language they feel comfortable and let them gain vocational training and skills for self-empowerment.
At community level, rehabilitation centers, teaching and learning centers, health and sports centers, cultural programs could be the healing tools. More than that, love, care and affection strengthen their morale to overcome the hardships.
Ladies and Gentleman,
Let me briefly share with you what we have been doing in Nepal with regard to ensuring equity, equality and inclusion of the persons with disabilities in general and persons with intellectual disabilities in particular.
Nepal is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and has submitted its periodic report well in time. We are now implementing the recommendations of the CRPD Committee.
The Constitution of Nepal is founded on the ideals of equality and non-discrimination. It has guaranteed comprehensive sets of human rights, including for the persons with disabilities.
Discrimination on the basis of disability is strictly prohibited. They have the right to live in dignity and honor. They have the rights to inclusion, social justice, social security, education, participation in the State institutions and right to access to public services and benefits.
Special provisions have been made for their protection, support, empowerment and development as well as to ensure their access to education and enhance representation.
To implement those rights enshrined in the Constitution, a comprehensive Disability Rights Act was enacted in 2017 in compliance with the CRPD.
The Act fully adheres to the right-based approach, recognizes diversity within the disability, eliminates derogatory words, and criminalizes the use of such words.
It also creates institutional mechanism to coordinate, monitor and promote the effective implementation of those rights at all levels of government.
We have introduced National Policy and Plan of Action on Disability (NPPAD) which is under implementation now.
Nepal’s culture and family values strongly encourage taking care of the differently able members within the family.
The Government of Nepal has also undertaken some key programmatic interventions with a view to implementing the constitutional and legal provisions.
Interventions, such as, promotion of community-based rehabilitation, production and distribution of assistive devices, provision of ID Cards, social security allowances, and full tax exemption to assistive devices, vehicles, and wheelchairs are some of the most utilized provisions.
In addition, monthly welfare allowance is paid to persons with profound and severe disabilities including the children. Scholarships and incentives such as residential scholarship; device and support scholarship; transportation subsidies; and motivational scholarship have been provided.
The Government provides resources to disabled peoples’ organizations to implement targeted programmes and support the people with psychosocial disabilities through counselling, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Mental health medication is included in the list of essential drugs that the Government makes available through the local health facilities. A separate Mental Health Policy has been approved to address the issues related to the persons with intellectual disability.
For over 13 years, Nepal has been implementing special reservation system in public sector employment opportunities to the persons with disabilities and has encouraged private sector for the same through tax incentives. Income tax threshold for persons with disabilities has been extended by 50% in comparison to others.
We have created institutions at different levels to exclusively work in the interest of the persons with disabilities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While sharing these positive efforts on the part of the Government, I am equally aware of the unique challenges that Nepal is confronted with in the way of protecting rights, interests and welfare of the persons with disabilities. The mountainous terrain of the country, high risk of natural disasters, modest level of technological development and capacity to afford modern assistive devices account some of the challenges that we face today.
We have endeavored to address those challenges through mobilization of all three tiers of government and enhancing partnership with civil society organizations and development partners. We need to invest more resources on infrastructures and technology.
To conclude, I am confident that the outcomes of this conference will provide useful ideas to calibrate and further reinforce our efforts and help to strengthen the partnership among the government, private sector, academia, media and social society for the common cause of supporting and enabling persons with intellectual disabilities.
I thank you all for your kind attention.