Thursday, July 30, 2009

Valerie Jarrett's Remarks at the Signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Ms. Jarrett: Thank you Ambassador Rice. Ambassador Rice has been a trusted advisor and friend of President Obama and has provided invaluable advice and counsel and guidance throughout both his campaign and in the early months of his administration. We are so proud of her efforts and hard work and the men and women serving at the U.S. Mission, working on the front lines of the Administration’s effort to usher in a new era of engagement.
I am thrilled to be joining Ambassador Rice on this occasion, as the United States takes this historic step toward advancing our global commitment to fundamental human rights for all persons with disabilities.
Last week, the President took a bold step forward for our country and announced that the United States of America would sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Now we fulfill his commitment, and the United States of America proudly joins the 141 other nations in signing this extraordinary Convention – the first new human rights convention of the 21st century.
Today, as Susan mentioned, 650 million people – ten percent of the world’s population – live with a disability. In developing countries, ninety percent of the children with disabilities do not attend school. And women and girls with disabilities are too often the subject of deep discrimination. This extraordinary treaty calls on all nations to guarantee the rights of those that afforded under the Americans with Disabilities Act, urges equal protection and equal benefit before the law for all citizens, and reaffirms the inherent dignity, worth, and independence of all persons with disabilities worldwide.
It is fitting that we are signing this Convention just a few days after the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Due in large part to the ADA, we have made great progress. But as the President said last Friday, and as the Ambassador just said, we are still not satisfied. We have much work to do.
Today, the President, together with Secretary Clinton, once again demonstrate their commitment to people with disabilities at home and around the world, and I am pleased to announce the creation of a new, senior level disability human rights position at the State Department. This individual will be charged with developing a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights of persons with disabilities internationally; he or she will coordinate a process for the ratification of the Convention in conjunction with the other federal offices; last but not least, this leader will serve as a symbol of public diplomacy on disability issues, and work to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are addressed in international situations. By appointing the necessary personnel to lead and ensure compliance on disability human rights issues, the President reinforces his commitment to the UN Convention.
We look forward to the Senate giving swift consideration and approval to the Convention once the President submits it them for their advice and consent.
With this signing, we once again confirm that disability rights are not just civil rights to be enforced here at home; they are universal human rights to be promoted around the world. So we proudly join the international community in protecting the human rights for all, thank you very much.

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