Excellency Vong Sauth, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation

Excellency Em Chan Makara, Secretary General of the Disability Action Council

Excellencies; colleagues from the development community and legal profession;

Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great honour for me to welcome you to this legal training workshop. We are here today to learn about and discuss key technical aspects of the Marrakesh Treaty for people who are blind, visually-impaired, or otherwise print disabled within the Cambodian context. This will contribute to preparation for Cambodia’s ratification of this laudable international treaty, which came into force in 2016.

This workshop is part of UNDP’s continued technical assistance to the Government of Cambodia and the disability community. UNDP has been implementing a disability rights programme over the last six years. Our commitment is to support the Royal Government of Cambodia to promote the rights of persons with disabilities through the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the National Law on the Protection and Promotion on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the National Disability Strategic Plan (NDSP) 2019-2023, that is now adopted by the Council of Ministers – and is expected to be officially launched at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge His Excellency Vong Sauth’s leadership, and the Cambodian Government’s strong commitment, to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.

Since Cambodia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012, Cambodia has made notable strides in pursuit of a disability-inclusive society, where the rights of persons with disabilities are protected and respected just as much as the rights of any other person.

However, access to published works in formats that are accessible for persons with print disabilities such as in braille, large print, electronic and audiobooks is still severely limited. The World Blind Union estimates that less than 1% of published books are ever turned into accessible formats in developing countries. This situation is referred to as the ‘book famine.’

The book famine restricts the fundamental human right to knowledge and results in serious development consequences. It prevents persons with print disabilities from making the most of human development opportunities – leading to exclusion, poverty, and limited participation in just about any aspect of economic, social and cultural life.

Excellencies; colleagues from the development community and legal profession; Ladies and gentlemen;

Today, in Cambodia and across the world, persons with disabilities remain among the most excluded and the poorest of the poor, being left behind from development gains. Limited access to published works in accessible formats is an impediment to Cambodia’s efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which are underpinned by the principles of ‘leaving no one behind,’ and ‘reaching the furthest behind first.’ The widespread book famine both in and outside Cambodia is a clear reminder that we need to act now.

The good news is that Cambodia is already taking action, making a global commitment to improving the situation: Cambodia is one of only two ASEAN countries that signed the Marrakesh Treaty when it opened for signature in 2013. However, Cambodia has not yet ratified the Treaty, which is a necessary step for formally joining the Marrakesh Treaty. This unfinished business is precisely the reason why we are here today – to develop in-country capacity to move closer, faster and surer to ratification and implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty – to bring all its benefits to Cambodian people for many generations to come.

The Marrakesh Treaty is the first copyright-related treaty with human rights principles at its core. The Treaty aims to end the book famine by removing legal barriers for producing and sharing accessible format copies of published works such as books, journals and textbooks, both within and between countries.

The Marrakesh Treaty will provide an additional legal framework, policy space and social momentum to accelerate the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Cambodia. The Treaty will also bring on board new partners such as the Ministry of Commerce; Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts; and Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport; towards achieving a ‘whole-of-government’ approach that is required to realize disability rights.

We are privileged to have Jonathan Band here with us, as the lead resource person for this workshop. Jonathan is a globally-recognized intellectual property lawyer who was engaged in the development and negotiation of the Marrakesh Treaty. He has been supporting many countries on legal reforms and training.  I take this opportunity to thank Jonathan for coming all the way from Washington, D.C., to offer his expertise to our Cambodian colleagues.

To end my remarks, ratifying and implementing the Marrakesh Treaty is about realizing the fundamental rights of one of the most marginalized populations; about reducing poverty and inequalities; and about eliminating exclusion – to achieve inclusive, just and sustainable development, which underpins UNDP’s corporate vision. The workshop today, is a perfect fit for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which will be celebrated on the 3rd of December under the theme of “The Future is Accessible.” We can demonstrate to the world that Cambodia is already turning this year’s theme into action.

Finally, I would like to conclude by congratulating the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation; the Disability Action Council; government ministries; the disability community and all participants in this room for coming together and working together towards Cambodia’s ratification and advancement of disability rights.

On a personal note, as someone with a public law background, I would like to say how pleased I am to meet a section of the legal profession in Cambodia, who are contributing to addressing the significant development issues of marginalization and exclusion of a considerable segment of the population in the country.

I wish you all a very productive workshop. Thank you.


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