For many people around the world, disability goes hand in hand with poverty and discrimination. If you are a person with a disability, you are more likely have a lower income and poorer health than your neighbours, and can face social exclusion.
You are also less likely to have access to basic health services on an equal basis with others.
If you are a disabled child, you are less likely to attend school and achieve the same qualifications as an able-bodied person.
A woman with a disability often suffers even more because of the additional barrier of gender discrimination.
The Royal Government has recognised these barriers and is taking important steps to promote, protect and ensure the rights of people with disabilities in Cambodia.
This was demonstrated by the National Assembly endorsing Cambodia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in August last year, and by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni signing implementing legislation – the final step in the domestic ratification process – on September 20.
On December 20, the UN Secretary-General notified parties the convention would come into force for Cambodia on January 19.
Australia congratulates the Royal Government of Cambodia on its decision to ratify the convention and its entry into force last Saturday.
The convention is a legally binding treaty that aims to promote, protect and ensure the full, equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all people with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
Cambodia joins 126 countries that have ratified the convention, including Australia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and China.
By doing so, it has demonstrated its strong commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same rights as all other citizens.
Ratification will help the estimated two million Cambodians who are disabled become more active members of society, as well as helping to change broader community attitudes to disabled people.
Australia is proud to be a long-term supporter of disability-inclusive development in Cambodia. Since 2009, it has helped the Royal Government and the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation prepare for the convention’s ratification.
This support is part of Australia’s practical approach to meeting the needs and priorities of people with disabilities and ensuring they ben-efit from development projects through our aid program, in line with Australia’s Development For All strategy.
As well as supporting this milestone, Australia has funded 37 civil-society organisations to deliver services for disabled people.
Australia’s support has enabled more than 7,000 Cambodians to access disability services including prosthetics and orthotics, wheelchairs and physical therapy.
Turning the convention into action will require support from all parts of the Royal Government.
People who are disabled must play an active, central role in all decisions and policies that affect them.
Australia looks forward to contin-uing to support disabled people in Cambodia through our aid program, as the Royal Government works to implement its obligations under the convention.
Australia supports disability-inclusive development by making all aspects of our aid program inclusive of people with disabilities and supporting targeted initiatives that break down barriers to disabled people participating in national development.
These initiatives include building the capacity of disabled people through their representative organ-isations to advocate their rights.
Australia’s investments in disability support services include rehabilitat-ion and assistive devices that enable people to get jobs, go to school, look after their families and improve the quality of their lives.
The Australian Government’s An Effective Aid Program for Australia: Making a Real Difference, Delivering Real Results policy has enhancing the lives of people with disability as one of it’s key objectives.
Australia recognises that our aid in Cambodia will be effective and achieve poverty reduction if it reaches, and benefits, the two million people living with disability.
With the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the future looks brighter for disabled Cambodians.
Penny Richards is the Australian ambassador to Cambodia.