Video message by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
Uzbekistan, 19 November 2021
I am delighted to address this meeting.
It gives us a crucial opportunity to discuss how to empower children with disabilities to realize their rights – particularly through inclusive education.
Let me begin by congratulating Uzbekistan for ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last June.
This is a very important first step, which should lead to practical implementation.
In this and other matters, I reiterate my continued support to Uzbekistan through my Regional Office for Central Asia and I am pleased that we were able to deploy a Human Rights Advisor to the UN Country Team.
Since the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted, back in 2008, there has been undeniable progress. But we also have to acknowledge some very uncomfortable truths. One of them is that millions of children around the world continue to have their rights denied each and every day; and that a disproportionate number of these are children with disabilities.
Indeed, children with disabilities continue to remain invisible in laws and policies because they are not counted and thus among the most likely to be left behind and the least likely to be heard.
We can only have one response: redouble our commitment to empower all children, including those with disabilities, so they can realize the rights they hold.
Empowerment means being fully included in their families, communities and societies. Being protected from poverty, violence and abuse. Crucially, it also means being heard.
At the heart of empowerment is inclusive education.
This is about far more than imparting knowledge to children. The right to education has a multiplier effect – it is a tool that can be used to realize all human rights.
As such, its importance cannot be overstated.
Inclusive education is a right of all learners and benefits all of society.
As the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has emphasized, it will take a transformation in culture, policy and practice to accommodate the diversity and identities of all students.
We must work together to collect and disaggregate data on children with disabilities to better design policies, foster enabling environments and provide the appropriate support so that they can speak up for themselves, be heard and fully enjoy their human rights.
In that regard, I hope that this forum will produce practical recommendations to ensure the inclusion of children with disabilities.
And I urge all of you in this Forum to work with resolve to enable all children to live a life of dignity, strive for their goals and achieve their brightest futures.