UN programme advancing rights of people with disabilities in Cambodia

Jul 4, 2014

A boy from Damnak Toeuk NGO draws on UNICEF wall to celebrate the International Children's Day on 1st June 2013. (Photo: UNICEF Cambodia/Bona Khoy)

A joint UN programme aimed at ensuring equal rights and opportunities for people with disability was launched in Cambodia on Friday, 4 July. Funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Disability Rights Initiative Cambodia (DRIC) will be implemented jointly by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO).

People with disability make up about 5 percent of the country’s population, according to Cambodia Socio Economic Survey in 2012. They face many barriers in daily life and lack access to appropriate, quality and affordable healthcare, rehabilitation, education and disability services that prevent them from full and effective participation in the society. 

 A woman with disability discusses voters' registration awareness in Kratie Province in 2012. (Photo: UNDP Cambodia/Chansok Lay)

The joint programme has four components that will support:

  • the government to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to effectively coordinate implementation of the National Disability Strategic Plan (NDSP);
  • the disabled people’s organizations to raise the voice and protect the rights of people with disability through policy research and advocacy;
  • the government’s measures to strengthen rehabilitation systems and services; and
  • inclusive governance with focus on capacity development for decision-makers at subnational levels to implement disability inclusive development.

DRIC is considered to be one of the largest global disability programmes to be implemented jointly by the three UN agencies, Ms. Claire van der Vaeren, UN Resident Coordinator, said in her remarks during the launching ceremony. It is, she added, also “unique in many ways as it is designed to create and sustain the synergy amongst the key actors … in promoting and protecting the rights of people with disability in Cambodia.”

The programme has a five-year span, 2014-2018, and a projected budget of AUD$13.1 million. Its implementing partners include Ministry of Social Affairs Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Cambodian Disabled’s People’s Organization, Disability Action Council, Persons with Disabilities Foundation, and Civil Society Organizations.

Guiding its implementation will be the National Disability Strategic Plan (NDSP) 2014-2018 that was unveiled on 3 July, one day before the launch of DRIC.

In his speech to the launch of (NDSP), Prime Minister Hun Sen said the strategic plan provides “the necessary foundation and backbone for improving the living standard and promoting the rights of the persons with disabilities in Cambodia.”

It consists of 10 goals:

  1. poverty reduction for persons of disabilities;
  2. provision of equal and quality and equitable healthcare, including occupational, physical and mental rehabilitation;
  3. provision of judicial service;
  4. elimination of discrimination, mistreatment and exploitation;
  5. provision of education;
  6. [fostering] their freedom to expression and access to information;
  7. [fostering] their participation in politics and development;
  8. facilitation of their use of public transport and communication means;
  9. assurance of gender equity and empowerment of women and children; and
  10. strengthening and expansion of international cooperation.

“We must also change social attitude toward and views on persons with disabilities by acknowledging their actions and take into account their voice to promote inclusive socio-economic development,” the prime minister said in his speech.