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Disability and basic rights

A disabled man sits in a wheelchair on Sothearos Boulevard in Phnom Penh
A disabled man sits in a wheelchair on Sothearos Boulevard in Phnom Penh in July. A report released by the World Health Organization and the World Bank estimates that 15 per cent of the world’s population has a disability. Heng Chivoan

Disability and basic rights

The World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank’s World Report on Disability (2011) estimates that 15 per cent of the world’s population have a disability, of whom 2.2 per cent have very significant difficulties functioning.

As a post-conflict country, Cambodia is subject to a number of risk factors which can lead to high prevalence of disability. If we use the data provided in the World Report on Disability to estimate the situation in Cambodia, that would mean about two million Cambodians are living with disability.

People with disability face many barriers including physical, social, economic and attitudinal. These barriers prevent them from full and effective participation in their society.

In Cambodia, people with disability lack access to appropriate, quality and affordable health care, rehabilitation, education and disability services. Women and children with disability are particularly vulnerable to disadvantage.
A recent Cambodian study found a significant higher prevalence of violence against women with disability compared to their peers without disability.

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has recognised these challenges and has been taking important steps to promote, protect and ensure the rights of people with disability in Cambodia.

This was demonstrated through the adoption of the Law on the Promotion and the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009 and the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2012.

In the Rectangular Strategy Phase III (2013-2018), disability is listed as one of the priorities under the Rectangle IV: “Implementing the national policy on disability through the Disability Action Council and strengthening the implementation of the Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Disability remains an important part of the Australian Government’s policy on development cooperation. Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, noted in a recent speech at a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on disability and development that “we have all witnessed the challenges faced by people with disability in developing countries where disability can increase the risk of poverty and poverty can increase the risk of disability”.

She stated that “through our aid programs, Australia has an important role in improving the lives of people with disability in other countries”.

Australia’s approach to these issues is outlined in our Development for All Strategy.

Australia is proud to be a long-term supporter of disability-inclusive development in Cambodia. Since 2004, Australia has implemented a practical approach to meeting the needs and priorities of people with disability and ensuring they benefit from development projects through our aid program.

Australia supported the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation to prepare for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Australia now supports two key institutions – the Disability Action Council and the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation.

Work this year by these institutions has contributed to the launching of the Incheon Strategy to “Make Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific; developing a National Disability Strategic Plan 2013-18; helping people with disability participate in the national election; raising awareness of disability issues and building the capacity of 27 disabled people’s organisations to advocate for their rights and needs.

Today, on the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Australia is pleased to launch a major new disability program – the Disability Rights Initiative Cambodia (DRIC).

This program will be run in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The long-term goal of this program is “to improve quality of life for people with disability in Cambodia”. The program will help ensure “people with disability have increased opportunities for participation in social, economic, cultural and political life through effective implementation of the National Disability Strategic Plan”.

The program has four components. The first will support the Royal Government of Cambodia to coordinate implementation of the Convention. The second will support disabled people’s organisations to raise the voice and protect the rights of people with disability.

The third component will help strengthen rehabilitation systems in Cambodia. The final component will enhance inclusive governance and inclusive community development.

This component aims to increase the capacity of and collaboration between sub-national decision makers, civil society and communities to achieve the rights of people with disability.

On this, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Australia confirms our commitment to stand behind people with disability in Cambodia.

Alison Burrows is Australian Ambassador to Cambodia.

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