Excellency Sem Sokha, Secretary of State of Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation;
Mr. Ngin Saorath, Executive Director of Cambodia Disabled People’s Organisation;
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen;
It is a great honour for me to join you at this National Dialogue on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities, which involves a range of stakeholders, including government ministries, disabled person’s organisations, persons with disabilities, and legal aid service providers in Cambodia. This important dialogue today is part of the United Nations’ continued support to the Cambodian disability and legal aid sector to seek advice and input to improve legal aid services, including pro-bono representation for persons with disabilities and marginalized groups.
The UN joint programme between UNDP and UNOHCHR – ‘Access to Justice without Barriers for Persons with Disabilities’ – aims to address these current challenges. It seeks to provide accessible mechanisms to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including those in detention, and enhance the capacity of duty bearers to implement commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
Over the past two years, many notable achievements have been made in the joint efforts between UNDP, UNOHCHR, government, CDPO and DPOs, Panhassastra University of Cambodia (PUC) and the legal aid sector for increased services related to basic social services and justice for persons with disabilities. The National Disability Strategic Plan 2019-2023 (NDSP2), in terms of which access to justice is one of the priority goals, was launched on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, presided over by Samdach Sor Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. The National Policy on Legal Aid has been drafted, which includes persons with disabilities as well as addressing the capacity of local government and DPOs to practically provide assistance to persons with disabilities in accessing basic social services such as health, education, a disability allowance as required, employment and income generation opportunities. Other examples of notable achievements on the joint efforts between stakeholders include, the increased knowledge of provincial primary court staff, lawyers and legal aid service providers on disability and UNCRPD; providing sign interpreters for deaf people; connecting persons with disabilities with DPOs during investigation and trial processes; as well as creating opportunities for law students with/without disabilities to intern and engage with CDPO, DPOs and government institutions to provide legal advice and support the collection, analysis and documentation of cases.
I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the strong commitment of the Royal Government of Cambodia and disability network in pursuit of a disability-inclusive society, where the rights of persons with disabilities are protected and respected alongside the rights of any other person; by increasing the national budget allocation; and by providing a reasonable enabling environment for persons with disabilities to fully participate and exercise their rights at their workplace, community and society.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen;
Access to justice is the equal ability to be fully heard, and to participate in all aspects of the justice system, without discrimination on the basis of disability. The Dialogue today will be a platform for government ministries, DPOs, NGOs, CSOs, and the legal profession including lawyers and law students, to share lessons learnt and good practices in providing a reasonable enabling environment to overcome historical and existing physical and other barriers experienced by persons with disabilities. As the disability slogan says, “nothing about us, without us.” I would like to encourage you, particularly persons with disabilities, to fully participate in this dialogue to ensure your voices are heard and concerns addressed with practical solutions that will benefit persons with disabilities at the community level. In the meantime, disability is referenced in various parts of the 2030 Global Development Agenda and the SDGs, specifically with respect to inequality, education, employment, inclusive growth and accessibility of human settlements.
As part of the United Nations, we are here to support the Royal Government of Cambodia and disability network to achieve the overarching goal of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of ‘Leaving no one behind’.
Finally, I would like to conclude by thanking the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation; the Disability Action Council, other government ministries, development partners – particularly the Australian Government for their strong support, the disability community and all participants, for coming together and working together to promote disability rights and to remove negative attitudes and social exclusion towards persons with disabilities.
Thank you, and I wish you all a productive 2 days of deliberations to achieve the objectives of this dialogue.