U.N. ambassador highlights link between disasters, disabilities

Kyodo

Japan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Motohide Yoshikawa on Tuesday stressed the importance of recognizing the special needs of people with disabilities during major disasters such as the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

In such situations the needs of those with disabilities “are particularly sensitive in times of disaster,” Motohide said.

The Japanese envoy, who was speaking at a conference for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, explained that after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan revised a law on disaster measures to require that lists be created to identify those in need of help in the event that evacuation orders are issued.

Motohide is among 700 participants, including diplomats whose countries have ratified the convention, and nongovernmental organizations, at the three-day gathering, which opened Tuesday. Japan took part for the first time after it presented a ratification document in January.

Katsunori Fujii, a representative from the Japan Disability Forum, and Jun Ishikawa, the former chair of the Commission on Policy for Persons with Disabilities of Japan, who are both visually impaired, also represented Japan at the conference.

To date, 146 nations and the European Union have ratified the convention, with Burundi and Angola the most recent countries to do so.

“The government of Japan intends proactively to contribute to the convention through continued international cooperation and future participation in the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” Yoshikawa said, adding that Tokyo pledged to continue its work with other countries and civil society.

The convention was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December 2006 and came into force two years later. It sets out a broad categorization of persons with disabilities, and reaffirms that the disabled are entitled to all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The year’s meeting in New York is focused on youth with disabilities, as well as the development agenda that member states are considering as a successor to the Millennium Development Goals.

The eight goals were set out to be achieved by next year. They include things like eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality and achieving universal primary school education.

The United Nations estimates that 1 billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.