Statement by Rosangela Berman Bieler – International Services Human Rights Award

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Rosangela Berman Bieler, Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute on Disability & Inclusive Development, recently received the 2007 Human Rights Award from International Service. Rosangela's work includes disaility and development at the World Bank and an ongoing project on disability, tourism, and development linking Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Below is the text of her acceptance speech:

First of all, I would like to express my deep appreciation to International Services for establishing this Human Rights Award and to including Disability Rights as a relevant area. I humbly thank the IS selection panel and supporters for considering my name amongst such a distinguished group of Human Rights Champions from around the world. It is for me a huge honor to be part of the IS partnership.

This award comes in a unique moment, when Disability rights advocates from all over the planet are working together to give visibility and to maximize the number of nations that ratify the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This twenty-first century's first human rights treaty was adopted by the United Nations a year ago and opened for signatures on March 30, 2007. To date, 118 nations have indicated support of the treaty and interest in ratification. As of today, 10 nations have ratified (Croatia, Cuba, Gabon, Hungary, India, Spain, Bangladesh, South Africa, Jamaica, and Panama). The treaty becomes legally binding 30 days after the 20th nation ratifies it.

According to the UN, approximately 10 percent of the world’s population has a disability. This translates into over 600 millions disabled people living around the world, being more than 400 million in developing countries. For every disabled person, there are at least three other members of the household indirectly affected by disability. The largest increase in the number of people with disabilities will happen in the age bracket of 65 years or more. And the world population is aging…

Today Disability is understood as the result of the interaction between people with different levels of functioning and an environment that does not take these differences into account. Disability is part of each and every individual’s life cycle. Beyond the typical areas of disability (motor, hearing, visual, and mental/intellectual), persons in general face “disabling” conditions in a society that is unprepared to recognize and respond to human diversity.

People with physical, sensory or mental limitations are often disabled not because of a diagnosable condition, but because they are denied access to education, labor markets, and public services. This exclusion leads to poverty and, in a vicious circle, poverty leads to more disability by increasing people’s vulnerability to malnutrition, disease, and unsafe living and working conditions.

According to the World Bank, it is expected that the number of people with disabilities will increase by 120%, in the next 30 years in developing countries. The increase is of 40% in more developed countries. It is estimated that 100 million people in the world acquired a disability due to malnutrition.

About 80-90% of disabled people in the Latin-American Region are unemployed or outside the work force. Most of those who have jobs receive little or no monetary remuneration. In my native country, Brazil, the 2000 Census shows that, of the 24.650.000 Brazilians with disability, 27% live in situation of extreme poverty and 53% are poor.

Universal inclusion is not only a human rights issue and a principle for equity, but also an operational strategy to general a better and sustainable society for all. To improve the efficacy of social and economic development actions and to reach all manifestations of human diversity, public policies, from design to implementation, must take all human characteristics and needs into account.

Human Rights are exercised in the mainstream society, in the daily life of each one of us. The means for this full exercise are provided by fair and equitable public policies for all. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a strong and effective instrument to orient and assist governments to implement policies and actions under an inclusive development approach.

The UN Convention recognizes the fundamental importance of getting disabled people ourselves involved in the process of our emancipation and reinforces the concept of “Nothing About Us, Without US”, used by the disability field to claim full participation. Under this premises, together with my peers and supporters of the Disability field, I would like to call all governments to immediately ratify the CRPD and start making the ideal of an inclusive Society, into a reality.

Thank you very much for this opportunity and let’s continue working together for a planet and a society where life is valued, diversity is celebrated and dignity is for all.



Inter-American Institute on Disability & Inclusive Development
Instituto Interamericano sobre Discapacidad y Desarrollo Inclusivo
Instituto Inter-Americano sobre Deficiência & Desenvolvimento Inclusivo

Rosangela Berman Bieler
Executive Director

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