Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The United States is pleased that one of the sessions during this year’s Conference of States Parties is devoted to Article 11′s critical focus on the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies, and natural disasters. This Article in the Convention is particularly important because it addresses necessary measures that States Parties must take in unexpected, exigent, life-and-death situations to ensure that individuals with disabilities are safe and protected. Governments across the globe are uniquely situated and have a solemn responsibility to protect the most vulnerable of their citizens in situations of risk.
The United States has a strong commitment to preparing for and responding to these situations to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities. Just last month at a celebration at the White House of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Barack Obama specifically recognized the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal governmental efforts to transform the way the United States’ emergency management community thinks about, plans for, responds to, and ensures persons with disabilities are protected and safe in emergency situations.
Our Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties leads the effort for the United States’ inter-agency cooperation and coordination to ensure that the federal government appropriately supports safety and security for individuals with disabilities in all-hazard, emergency and disaster situations. This effort involves the combined and concerted effort of more than twenty United States federal agencies involved in a wide array of national and international emergency situations. These federal agencies work together to ensure that the perspectives and needs of persons with disabilities are incorporated into emergency preparedness plans, and that barriers to their equal access to go governmental programs are removed. In addition, our Department of Health and Human Services oversees the United States’ Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, which requires the development of plans and strategies that address the needs of at-risk individuals, including those with disabilities, so that emergency planners, managers, and responders will be better prepared for and respond to the needs of at-risk individuals prior to and following a catastrophic event and public health emergencies.
Our state and local governments also play a critical role, as do national and community-based organizations. The federal government partners in these efforts and our Justice Department has issued extensive guidance and practical tools to assist them in developing accessible shelters and emergency response procedures that meet the needs of persons with disabilities.
In sum, the United States takes seriously its international and domestic law obligations to protect all individuals with disabilities and to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk. We look forward to learning about and learning from the active efforts that other States Parties and signatories are taking.