Ensuring Effective and Full Participation in Political and Public Life for Persons with Disabilities
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The United States is pleased to address Article 29’s critical focus on ensuring effective and full participation in political and public life. We are committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in political and public affairs. We are working with members of civil society at home and internationally to empower individuals with disabilities to exercise their rights.
Multiple U.S. laws protect the rights to political participation for persons with disabilities. From the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, through the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (known as the “Motor Voter Act”), the Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”) of 2002, and the foundational antidiscrimination protections offered by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the U.S. has adopted a comprehensive approach to making political participation accessible. The U.S. government provides technical assistance to and monitors local governments to ensure the full realization of political rights of persons with disabilities and takes strong enforcement actions when individuals are denied their rights. The federal government also works collaboratively with civil society to provide training and tools so that consumers and advocates can monitor local governmental actions and ensure that local governmental entities fully recognize the rights of persons with disabilities.
U.S. laws require the physical accessibility of all venues for civic participation, including polling places. The process of casting ballots also must be accessible. Our laws require that public entities afford all persons effective communication, so that persons with disabilities can fully participate in public affairs without barriers. U.S. laws further mandate that election officials and other governmental workers should be trained in the electoral process and the rights of persons with disabilities so that they can assist individuals with all types of disabilities, including psycho-social, sensory, developmental, and physical, to participate in the electoral process. Since 1999, the Justice Department’s Project Civic Access has signed agreements with 193 local governments throughout the country to ensure full access to civic life for over 4 million persons with disabilities. These agreements, which were pursued after problems with compliance were raised, recognize that non-discriminatory access to public programs and facilities is a civil right, and that individuals with disabilities must have the opportunity to participate in local government programs, services and activities on an equal basis with their neighbors.
To assist state and local entities in meeting accessibility requirements, the Justice Department has created a number of guides, such as an ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments and a checklist for accessibility of voting places. All of these materials are available at the federal government’s key disability rights website, http://www.ADA.gov.
The effectiveness of the U.S. approach is highlighted by the number of persons with disabilities throughout the country who hold local, state, and federal public offices. Also, candidates in national elections routinely develop platforms on key disability issues, a practice that demonstrates the effectiveness of disability rights advocates in communicating their messages in the public sphere. In recognition of the political significance of voters with disabilities, many campaigns appoint staff that specifically focus on outreach to this voting community.
In sum, the United States is deeply committed to ensuring that all individuals with disabilities have the opportunity for effective and full participation in all aspects of political and public life. This commitment also is reflected in our cooperation with other countries. The Department of State and USAID are working as implementing partners in providing technical assistance to countries seeking to make their elections inclusive of disabled voters. We are happy to engage in informal discussions with States Parties throughout this Conference to provide additional information about our laws and programs to promote full participation in political and public life. We also look forward to hearing about the efforts that other States Parties and Signatories are making to ensure access to political and civic life.
Thank you. As Special Advisor for International Disability Rights in the Department of State, I welcome the opportunity to address the Fourth Conference of States Parties. The Obama Administration has appointed several senior officials to elevate the importance of disability issues, and Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Coordinator for Disability Inclusive Development at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is on the U.S. delegation this year. In his July 2011 Proclamation on the 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the President reiterated his commitment to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities; ending all forms of discrimination against us; providing us with opportunities on an equal basis with others; and having the U.S. ratify the Disabilities Convention, which the United States signed in July 2009. To support the President’s commitment, key U.S. Government agencies continue to work diligently towards ratification.
As we move towards ratification, the theme of this year’s session, “Enabling Development and Realizing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” takes on particular importance. On inclusive development, the Department of State and USAID are collaborating to ensure that U.S. Government agencies advance the participation of persons with disabilities in the broader society. At the State Department, Secretary Clinton has asked each of our embassies to designate a point of contact on disability issues. This will facilitate communication between Washington and the field, and encourage engagement on a range of concerns directly affecting persons with disabilities, including discrimination, accessibility, health services, and independent living.
The State Department’s annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” give detailed information on the human rights situations of 194 countries. They aim to advance worldwide efforts to end human rights abuses, calling attention to countries that fail to uphold internationally recognized rights. The Country Reports include sections dealing with groups that are at particular risk for human rights abuses, and specifically address persons with disabilities.
The State Department and USAID have continued to introduce disability-related criteria in awarding international grants, and continue to provide technical assistance on improving accessibility to countries that have ratified the Convention. As a result, we have seen an increased number of grant applicants addressing the inclusion of disability in their proposals and reaching out to partner with disabled people’s organizations.
In the United States, federal agencies are using recruitment, retention, and reasonable accommodation to implement the President’s July 2010 Executive Order on increasing employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in the federal government. The Department of Labor has established October as National Disability Employment Awareness month. This year, for the first time, the State Department is partnering to involve U.S. embassies in raising awareness of these issues at the country level.
We continue to seek the valuable input of civil society groups. As part of the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society, the State Department has elevated the issue of disability rights. Disabilities groups have taken part in various conversations with senior officials, including Secretary Clinton, and staff members at various federal agencies. Similarly, USAID and the State Department held a joint listening session with key disabilities stakeholders. The State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs continues to increase the numbers of disabled people participating in the International Visitors Leadership Program and other cultural exchanges.
The U.S. looks forward to joining the upcoming discussions on the sessions’ sub-themes of international cooperation, political and civil participation, and work and employment. In closing, let me mention a side event that the U.S. and Australia will be hosting this Thursday, September 8 on “Implementing Article 24: Inclusive Education through International Cooperation.” We hope to see many of you during this lunchtime panel discussion. The U.S. delegation welcomes conversation with you, our partners, over the coming days.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Securing equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities continues to be a top priority in the United States. In addition to the federal government’s long-standing and wide-reaching enforcement efforts that prohibit disability discrimination in the workplace by private and governmental employers, we also are supporting equal employment opportunities through a variety of initiatives.
In 2010, President Obama issued an Executive Order to increase the federal employment of individuals with disabilities with the intention of making the federal government a model employer. Under the Order, senior-level officials at each federal agency must be accountable for enhancing employment opportunities and retention of persons with disabilities. Each official is charged with creating recruitment, training, and counseling programs for the employment of persons with disabilities.
The federal government also supports several grant-making initiatives that provide employment support to persons with disabilities. The Department of Education oversees grant programs which serve approximately one million individuals with disabilities annually, to help them obtain employment and live more independently through the provision of supports such as counseling, medical and psychological services, job training and other individualized services. The Department of Education also provides funds to state vocational rehabilitation agencies, to provide employment-related services for individuals with disabilities, giving priority to individuals who are significantly disabled. It also supports Project SEARCH, a program that provides education and training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through an innovative workforce and career development model that benefits both the individual and the workplace.
The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is another initiative undertaken by the federal government in the past ten years. ODEP is charged with creating a national policy to ensure that people with disabilities have increased employment opportunities. ODEP provides national leadership by developing new employment-related policies and practices, and sponsors several important disability research and technical support services.
The private sector has also taken up the challenge of increasing employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. For example, the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) is a national disability organization that has over 60 affiliates across North America, representing over 5,000 employers. Such private sector initiatives help create workplaces, marketplaces, and supply chains where people with disabilities are included and respected for their talents and abilities.
The key U.S. enforcement of disability rights protections in the workplace is carried out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor. These three agencies enforce federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against qualified job applicants or employees because of those individuals’ disabilities, history of disability, appearance of disability, or association with someone with a disability. Under federal law, there are strict limits on when employers may ask job applicants or workers questions about disability. However, employers may ask applicants whether they can perform the essential job functions, with or without reasonable accommodation. The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause undue hardship for the employer. Reasonable accommodations might include providing sign language interpretation for a job applicant, making the workplace accessible for wheelchair users, or providing an electronic screen reader for an employee who is blind. U.S. laws also prohibit employers from creating a hostile work environment for workers with disabilities.
The EEOC, Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor have the authority to investigate charges of discrimination. If they determine that an employer has discriminated, they attempt to settle the matter out of court, and if that effort is unsuccessful, the agencies may file lawsuits to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Since the effective date of the ADA’s employment discrimination provisions in July 1992, the EEOC alone has obtained more than 939 million dollars in benefits for persons with disabilities who experienced employment discrimination.
The United States recognizes the challenges of achieving equality of employment opportunity and will continue its vigorous efforts to end workplace discrimination against persons with disabilities.
Generations of Americans with disabilities have improved our country in countless ways. Refusing to accept the world as it was, they have torn down the barriers that prohibited them from fully realizing the American dream. Their tireless efforts led to the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), one of the most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation in our Nation’s history. On this day, we celebrate the 21st anniversary of the ADA and the progress we have made, and we reaffirm our commitment to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans.
Each day, people living with disabilities make immeasurable contributions to the diversity and vitality of our communities. Nearly one in five Americans lives with a disability. They are our family members and friends, neighbors and colleagues, and business and civic leaders. Since the passing of the ADA, persons with disabilities are leading fuller lives in neighborhoods that are more accessible and have greater access to new technologies. In our classrooms, young people with disabilities now enjoy the same educational opportunities as their peers and are gaining the tools necessary to reach their greatest potential.
Despite these advancements, there is more work to be done, and my Administration remains committed to ending all forms of discrimination and upholding the rights of Americans with disabilities. The Department of Justice continues to strengthen enforcement of the ADA by ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to community-based services that allow them to lead independent lives in the communities of their choosing. Under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, insurers will no longer be able to engage in the discriminatory practice of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and Americans with disabilities will have greater control over their health care choices. And last year, I signed an Executive Order establishing the Federal Government as a model employer forindividuals with disabilities, placing a special focus onrecruitment and retention of public servants with disabilities across Federal agencies.
Through the ADA, America was the first country in the world to comprehensively declare equality for citizens with disabilities. To continue promoting these principles, we have joined in signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At its core, this Convention promotes equality. It seeks to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same rights and opportunities as all people, and are able to lead their lives as do other individuals.
Eventual ratification of this Convention would represent another important step in our forty-plus years of protecting disability rights. It would offer us a platform to encourage other countries to join and implement the Convention. Broad implementation would mean greater protections and benefits abroad for millions of Americans with disabilities, including our veterans, who travel, conduct business, study, reside, or retire overseas. In encouraging other countries to join and implement the Convention, we also could help level the playing field to the benefit of American companies, who already meet high standards under United States domestic law. Improved disabilities standards abroad would also afford American businesses increased opportunities to export innovative products and technologies, stimulating job creation at home.
Equal access, equal opportunity, and the freedom to make of our lives what we will are principles upon which our Nation was founded, and they continue to guide our efforts to perfect our Union. Together, we can ensure our country is not deprived of the full talents and contributions of the approximately 54 million Americans living with disabilities, and we will move forward with the work of providing pathways to opportunity to all of our people.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Tuesday, July 26, 2011, the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I encourage Americans across our Nation to celebrate the 21st anniversary of this civil rights law and the many contributions of individuals with disabilities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
The Obama Administration has dramatically changed our course at the United Nations. The President’s new era of engagement has led to concrete results at the UN that advance U.S. foreign policy objectives and American security. The dividends of U.S. leadership at the UN are tangible – the stiffest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea, renewed momentum against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, a coordinated global effort to help Haiti recover and rebuild, internationally agreed principles to address food insecurity, and direct U.S. participation to reform the flawed UN Human Rights Council. In a world facing so many complex transnational challenges, rebuilding a strong basis for international cooperation has allowed the U.S. to work collectively to solve problems at the United Nations, furthering core national security interests for the American people.
The President’s vision for a world without nuclear weapons includes a realistic path to achieve that goal. Several of the significant milestones to date on this important Administration priority have taken place at the UN.
UN Security Council Resolution 1887: In September 2009, the U.S. held the presidency of the UN Security Council and President Obama chaired the historic Council Summit on nonproliferation and disarmament. The capstone of the Summit was the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1887. This U.S.-drafted resolution reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the global nonproliferation regime based on the NPT, expressed the unified view that all countries enjoy rights and responsibilities under the NPT, and signaled particular concern that all countries need to comply with their obligations. Resolution 1887 also reinforced ongoing work based on UNSC Resolution 1540 to strengthen the nonproliferation regime.
Iran: The United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly to sanction Iran for its continued failure to live up to its obligations. UNSCR 1929 puts in place the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government, and it sends an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. The new sanctions impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and, for the first time, its conventional military. They put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling, and crack down on Iranian banks and financial transactions. They target individuals, entities, and institutions -– including those associated with the Revolutionary Guard –- that have supported Iran’s nuclear program and prospered from illicit activities at the expense of the Iranian people. And the U.S. will ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced, just as we continue to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran alongside our friends and our allies.
The strong resolution that passed in June benefited from wide international support. In voting for it, the U.S. was joined by nations from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America -– including Russia and China. And these sanctions show the united view of the international community that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is in nobody’s interest, and that nations must be held accountable for challenging the global non-proliferation regime.
North Korea: In response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons test, the U.S. secured the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1874, which put in place a tough array of sanctions, including asset freezes, financial sanctions, a complete embargo on arms exports, and an unprecedented framework for the inspection of suspect vessels. Since the adoption of Resolution 1874, countries have intercepted and seized tons of contraband cargo, including a massive arms shipment uncovered by Thailand in December. These interdictions show that countries are taking seriously their obligations to enforce these tough new measures. The United States will continue to press on sanctions implementation until there is concrete, verifiable progress on denuclearization.
NPT Review Conference: In May 2010, NPT parties adopted by consensus a Final Document that advances a realistic path towards achievement of the President’s vision for the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. This document includes calls for strengthened verification and compliance, recognizes the New START agreement and the need for deeper reductions of nuclear weapons, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the immediate start of talks on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, and supports efforts to pursue international fuel banks and related mechanisms to broaden access to peaceful nuclear energy without creating new proliferation risks.
The Conference produced a clear outcome that strengthens all three pillars of the Treaty – nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This major achievement is a vindication of the broad thrust of U.S. efforts to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons while pursuing the peace and security of a world without them. Everyone recognizes that the new approach the United States has brought to the table on nonproliferation energized this Conference and the effort to reach a consensus final document. The contrast between the atmospherics of this Conference and the one held five years ago is dramatic.
Bolstering Progress in Afghanistan and Iraq
Afghanistan: Since 2009, the United States has pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan that, in addition to increased military efforts, placed much greater emphasis on the role of international civilian assistance. The U.S. has worked to ensure that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had the resources and political support to carry out its vital mission. The U.S. has also worked to strengthen all aspects of the UN presence in the country so that UNAMA can best complement efforts to support the Government of Afghanistan by the United States and the International Security Assistance Force and better coordinate donor support.
Iraq: As the U.S. continues to reduce its footprint in Iraq, the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) continues to play a critical role. The U.S. strongly supports the work of the UN Mission in Iraq as it continues to provide important technical assistance to the Government of Iraq, mediates longstanding internal boundary disputes, and assists displaced Iraqi citizens.
Strengthening UN Peacekeeping and Conflict Prevention Efforts
Improving Peacekeeping Effectiveness: In September 2009, President Obama hosted the first-ever meeting with the leaders of the top troop-contributing nations to UN peacekeeping operations, underscoring America’s commitment to this vital tool, which allows countries around the world to share the burden for protecting civilians and fragile peace processes in societies emerging from war. The U.S. continues to advance initiatives to strengthen UN peacekeeping capabilities, including by seeking to expand the number, capacity, and effectiveness of troop and police contributors, helping secure General Assembly approval for vital peacekeeping reforms, and working with fellow Security Council members to craft more credible and achievable mandates for operations in Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and several other current operations.
Haiti: After the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which claimed the lives of over 100 UN personnel and the UN stabilization mission’s leadership, the U.S. worked extremely closely with the UN to help the Government of Haiti ensure security and deliver vital humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were able to withdraw from Haiti within a few months, as countries from Latin America and around the world moved quickly to share the burden and augment the UN peacekeeping presence. At the end of March, the U.S. along with the UN, and other partners, hosted a major donors conference. The U.S. has pledged $1.1 billion for Haiti’s long term reconstruction needs.
Sudan: Following the indictment by the International Criminal Court of the President of Sudan and the retaliatory expulsion of humanitarian relief workers, the U.S. pressed for the return of the aid groups and opposed the deferral of the ICC arrest warrant. The U.S. has carefully supported the effective implementation of peacekeeping mandates in Southern Sudan and Darfur, and promoted improved cooperation between these two peacekeeping missions, in line with the Obama Administration’s comprehensive approach to Sudan. The U.S. continues to work closely with senior UN officials to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground, and ensure that the UN is prepared to support the upcoming referenda. President Obama will attend the high-level Sudan meeting hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban during the General Assembly, to bring high-level attention and focus to actions that can support on-time referenda that reflect the will of the Sudanese people.
The U.S. strongly backs the work of the Sudan sanctions Committee and the Sudan Panel of Experts. The U.S. led negotiations on resolution 1891, renewing the mandate of the Experts and making the sanctions and the Committee more effective.
Liberia: The U.S. built an international consensus to maintain a robust peacekeeping operation in Liberia through the 2011 elections by leading a Security Council delegation to Liberia and working to ensure unbroken support for the implementation of the peace process.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the U.S. championed improved protection of civilians, especially by demanding an end to the epidemic of rape and gender-based violence.
Women, Peace and Security: The U.S., with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presiding, led the Security Council in adopting unanimously Resolution 1888 on Women, Peace, and Security, which condemns conflict-related sexual violence and calls on all parties to immediately end acts of rape and sexual violence during armed conflict. This initiative strengthens the international response to sexual violence in conflict by establishing a dedicated UN Special Representative, creating of a team of experts to investigate crimes and assist victims, and tracking data on sexual violence in UN reports.
Somalia: The U.S. helped garner international support for the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including by supporting UN funding to keep international peacekeepers in the country. The U.S. has been a strong supporter of recent efforts to augment the number of troops deployed in AMISOM, which now has a force of nearly 7,000. Since AMISOM’s deployment in 2007, the United States has obligated more than $185 million to provide logistics support, equipment, and pre-deployment training to its forces. The United States has been the largest single country donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, providing more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance in Fiscal Year 2009. Additionally, the U.S. spearheaded efforts to secure renewed UN authority for international forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. These authorities allow countries to continue to pursue pirates on Somali soil as well as in Somali territorial waters.
Eritrea: The U.S. supported the African Union’s call for sanctions on Eritrea, resulting in the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1907, which established an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea for its continued role in destabilizing Somalia and the region and failure to comply with resolution 1862 on Djibouti.
Sri Lanka: The U.S. focused international attention to the plight of civilians in the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka and pressed for their release from the internally displaced persons camps after the conflict ended.
Promoting a New Era of Engagement and Reform
Human Rights Council: The U.S. sought and secured election to the UN Human Rights Council. Though the Council is deeply flawed, the United States is now working to reform it from within so that it can speak up for those suffering under the world’s cruelest regimes, fight the Council’s excessive focus on Israel, and focus on major human rights abuses worldwide.
In the past year, the United States has spoken out on serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. With active U.S. leadership, the council authorized international mandates to closely monitor and address the human rights situations in Burma, North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan. In June, the United States co-led a cross-regional effort with 55 other nations to criticize the deplorable human rights situation in Iran and to express solidarity with victims and human rights defenders on the anniversary of the contested Iranian election. We have also worked cooperatively with governments such as those of Haiti, Somalia and Kyrgyzstan as they experienced crisis and sought help from the council to strengthen their human rights capabilities and help their countries rebuild. And the U.S. partnered with the government of Afghanistan to build international support for efforts to prevent attacks on Afghan school children, especially girls, who seek to be educated. Along with our international partners and the NGO community, the United States has brought a new tone of constructive engagement to the council.
Human Rights: On behalf of the President, Ambassador Rice signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century. Additionally, in a reversal of the previous Administration’s policy, USUN supported a landmark General Assembly declaration condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation. USUN also provided leadership, working with our allies, to win decisive victories on General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights violations in North Korea, Burma, and Iran. Further, USUN spearheaded an effort that led to a decisive victory in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which voted to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC), a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that does invaluable work around the globe to protect basic human rights, combat discrimination, and fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
UN Women: The U.S. was instrumental in the establishment of a new UN agency called UN Women. This vital new organization combines four separate UN offices into one stronger, streamlined and more efficient entity for women around the world. UN Women will work to elevate women’s issues within the UN system and on the international stage. The U.S. warmly welcomes the appointment of Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, as the first head of UN Women.
UN Arrears: Working with the U.S. Congress, the Administration was able to clear hundreds of millions in arrears to the United Nations, which accumulated between 2005 and 2008, and is now staying current with payments to the Organization.
UN Reform: As the largest financial contributor to the UN, ensuring that U.S. funds are spent wisely and not wasted is vital. The U.S. has worked to contain the growth of the UN budget and consistently pressed the issue of efficiency and accountability in our discussions with the UN, pushing for a focus on results. In 2009, the Administration successfully negotiated an agreement that held constant the share of U.S. assessed contributions to the United Nations.
The U.S. advocated and supported adoption of key elements of an accountability framework for the UN and for the first time this year defined what accountability means for the UN Secretariat. The U.S. has held back attempts to curb the authority and operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and succeeded in March 2010 in preserving OIOS’ existing mandate and authority. The U.S. supports transparency and holding the UN accountable and thus will continue to make public OIOS audit reports.
The United States has consistently and aggressively supported OIOS to be a strong and independent watchdog so that U.S. taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and UN programs are managed effectively. And while OIOS has provided valuable recommendations to improve the UN’s effectiveness and served as a deterrent in the area of waste, fraud, and sexual exploitation and abuse, it has had shortcomings, especially in the area of investigations. The U.S. has pushed hard for improvements in that function so that OIOS can more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct. In that vein, the U.S. successfully pushed for the quick nomination of a new head of OIOS, who we will work with to improve oversight.
The U.S. supported the appointment of Joan Dubinsky, an American, to head the UN ethics office. And the United States has worked closely with the UN Secretariat and Member States in the General Assembly to approve an agenda for sweeping reform of how the UN undertakes administrative and logistics support for UN field operations (the Global Field Support Strategy) to capture efficiencies within peacekeeping operations and improve the UN’s capacity to support complex field missions.
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I join with friends and colleagues around the world to recognize December 3 as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Advancing opportunities and promoting the rights of disabled people has been a lifelong commitment, and I am honored to continue advocating on behalf of people with disabilities on the international stage.
The United States is proud to be a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to support its full and effective implementation. We are also invested in including disability rights as a core focus of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This global undertaking to eradicate extreme poverty and inequality offers hope to millions of people across the developing world, but much remains to be done for people with disabilities, particularly disabled women and girls. We cannot hope to achieve the Millennium Development Goals when those with disabilities are denied the opportunity to lead empowered and autonomous lives by violence or the fear of violence. Disabled people deserve equal access and opportunity within society.
In honor of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the State Department is hosting events focused on the issues of HIV/AIDS and disability, and violence against women and girls with disabilities. These events will bring together experts with experience in disability rights, civil society, and government to help raise awareness and understanding of how to tackle these challenging issues. Our Special Advisor for International Disability Rights Judith Heumann is leading efforts at the United States Department of State to ensure disability inclusion and non-discrimination are central to all of our policies and practices, in Washington and around the globe. Together, we can help 650 million people living with disabilities today enjoy their full human rights, and achieve the vision of equality and inclusion set forth in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.