New York – Haidi Zhang, President of Rehabilitation International, has spoken strongly on the need to know who disabled people are, where they live and what needs to be done about their situation, if people with disabilities are not to be left behind in the ongoing implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ms. Zhang made the statement at the High-level panel held on January 31, 2018 at the UN as part of the 56th Session of the Commission for Social Development. With the theme: “Towards inclusive, resilient and sustainable development: an evidence-based approach to the mainstreaming of disability in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the 2030 Agenda”, the panel was Chaired by Mr. Bruno Rios of the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN and moderated by RI Secretary General Venus Ilagan.
Ms. Zhang shared with delegations from participating states, both the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in China as well as the measures and initiatives taken by the Government to address the issues proactively, including the provision of inclusive education to more children with disabilities which is not only an important but a critical step towards realizing the rights of disabled children who will eventually become adult persons with disabilities – the future of the disability movement in China. Ms. Zhang also said that the Chinese Government has included Persons with Disabilities among the key recipients of support for poverty eradication, a step that has greatly improved quality of life of a significant number of persons with disabilities. China has played a very important role as co-organizer with the UN-ESCAP, of the High-Level Inter Governmental Meeting for the Midpoint review of the 3rd Asian and Pacific Decade for Persons with Disabilities held in Beijing from 27 November to 1st December 2017. The Beijing Declaration and Action Plan that was adopted in that meeting provides for a robust and comprehensive policy framework that guides the region’s efforts to build disability-inclusive society in the Asia-Pacific region.
As China’s Minister for Disability and President of the China Disabled Persons Federation, Ms. Zhang underscored the Chinese Government’s commitment in ensuring that persons with disabilities will not be left behind in its efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Cited by Ms. Zhang among the many accomplishments in support of China’s eighty-five million citizens with disabilities, is the progress achieved in disability-related data collection, poverty reduction, rehabilitation, education and employment. Beginning in 2015, China has conducted surveys to learn about the basic services and specific needs of persons with disabilities. This enabled the Government to generate information compiled in a data bank, about more that thirty-three (33) million persons who registered with a disability, matched with the services available to them in some seven hundred thousand (700,000) villages and communities in China.
As president of RI, Haidi Zhang was instrumental in the creation of a Global Disability Development Fund (GDDF) and an Africa Fund specifically for the Africa region, to assist organizations of persons with disabilities and those who work with them, to pursue initiatives on rehabilitation, education, capacity building, employment and other activities towards creating better lives and opportunities for persons with disabilities especially women and children.