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Coalition must take a lead on equality for disabled people at home and abroad - Liz Lynne MEP

September 21, 2010 12:44 PM
Liz Lynne MEP speaking to the Lib Dem conference

Liz Lynne speaking in the International Policy Debate at the LibDem conference in Liverpool

The coalition government must take the lead in fighting for equality for disabled people, not just as a domestic and European priority but as a core commitment of international aid policy, Euro MP Liz Lynne told the Lib Dem party conference in Liverpool.

Speaking in the conference debate on September 19 to approve a new Lib Dem International Development Policy, Liz Lynne MEP welcomed a move to include a specific commitment to work for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities which she had asked for.

In the debate (Motion F21 on Policy Paper: Accountability to the Poor), Liz Lynne said:

"I welcome this motion, and the excellent policy document it relates to. I am delighted after over 50 years of supporting the Liberal cause to be addressing a conference to debate and vote on policy which Liberal Democrat ministers will be able to implement in government, if we can convince our coalition partners.

Politics is ultimately about getting our policies and principles carried forward into action.

Of course being in coalition has meant compromise, but I for one am very pleased that both the parties in this government have been very clear, that we will not dilute our commitment to international aid and development.

I am delighted that my amendment was accepted by the movers of the motion and are incorporated in the text, which calls for the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities has to be implemented effectively.

I believe it is important that we take every opportunity to stress our commitment to equality in general and our commitment to helping disabled people in particular. Achieving a legally binding UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was a huge milestone. It is historic and groundbreaking in many ways, being the fastest negotiated human rights treaty ever and the first of the twenty-first century.

There are at least 650 million people worldwide with disabilities, this is around 10% of the world's population. An estimated 20 per cent of the world's poorest people are those with disabilities; 98 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school; And the literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3 per cent whilst poor people are much more likely to become disabled during their lifetimes.

Disability can result in poverty since disabled people often face discrimination and marginalisation.Whilst 146 states have now signed up to the Convention, at least 8 countries have not and many more have yet to ratify.

We must keep up the pressure on individual countries to ratify the convention and adopt the binding commitments it contains if we are to deliver the equality that disabled people deserve.

In 2002, I was the EU Parliament's rapporteur for its report on the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People, since then I have kept up the pressure.

In the few developed and developing countries that have passed comprehensive legislation protecting the basic rights of people with disabilities, those individuals can live fulfilling and independent lives. They are able do so because society has removed the physical and cultural barriers that had previously hindered their full participation.

Many of you will have seen the horrors of the institutions and caged beds in Romania , where disabled people were locked away for life in appalling conditions. The convention has the potential to stop this happening in the future. It has the possibility to transform lives and bring hope to some of the most excluded people. We must make this convention a reality around the world.

We can and must ensure the Government we are part of takes the lead, and makes equality for disabled people not just a domestic and European priority but also an explicit, core commitment of our international aid policies too."

ENDS