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XVIIIth World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf

Video Message from Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

22 July 2019

Thank you for this opportunity to send greetings to this World Congress on behalf of my Office, the Human Rights Office of the United Nations – and to share with you some reflections.

Last September, we celebrated the first ever International Day of Sign Languages.  This was a landmark. It took the global community far too long to embrace sign language as an invaluable instrument to ensure that deaf people enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others. 

Sign languages – like all languages – permit freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas. They mean we can learn, teach, work, and take part in private and public life. The use of sign language is also a cultural right belonging to Deaf people and is essential to preserve and foster identity and community

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises and promotes the use of sign languages as part of its commitment to inclusive equality. It constitutes a promise by States to accept and respect the rights of all individuals to preserve their identities, and empower them to participate in shaping our communities.

The Convention’s embrace of human diversity means that all of us, including deaf women, men, girls and boys, have the space, support and strength to contribute to – and benefit from –our communities. This is essential to advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is built around the objective of reaching the furthest behind first, leaving no one behind.

Demonstrating this commitment, the United Nations has recently adopted its first ever Disability Inclusion Strategy. This road map recognises that across the operations of the entire UN system, persons with disabilities, in all their diversity, must be included on an equal basis with others – not only as beneficiaries but also as agents of change.

My Office has been active in the development of this strategy and its accompanying accountability framework, to which all UN bodies will report every year.  

We are determined to continue to promote disability inclusion. The rights of persons with disabilities are a priority “spotlight” in our Office management plan, and we consider it important to continue building relationships with representative organisations, such as WFD, to ensure that our work fully reflects the diversity of persons with disabilities around the world.

I wish you very successful Congress