I am delighted to be able to lend my voice to this very important conference. The protection of human rights is a cornerstone of our foreign policy and a personal passion of mine.
All people everywhere have the right to live productive lives, free from discrimination and with equal access to opportunities everywhere – and this includes people with disabilities. But you know, and I know, too often and in too many places, these rights are violated because of prejudice, discrimination, indifference, ignorance and inaction. Many people with disabilities are hidden and isolated by their families and communities because of fear, embarrassment and stigma. Then they can be trafficked and exploited by those who do not respect their basic humanity. They are confronted every day by physical, legal, and social barriers that limit whether they can work or go to school. This is an affront to our common humanity, but it also limits economic development, and tears at the fabric of societies.
That’s why the State Department is making the inclusion of persons with disabilities an important element of our policies and practices. Our Special Advisor for International Disability Rights is working to include the rights of all persons with disabilities across the Department’s diplomatic and programmatic initiatives. Our embassies are working around the world to protect and promote those rights as well. And we are trying to connect governments with the expertise and technical assistance they need, and empowering civil society to better advocate for persons with disabilities.
So these are some of the basic principles that unite us in our common purpose. Let us redouble our efforts to tear down those shameful walls of exclusion and to create new pathways for participation, empowerment and progress. Thank you very much.