Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Mr President,

I would like to thank you and members of the Bureau for the excellent work done in preparation for this Conference.

My delegation has in the past derived significant inspiration from the informative and insightful information shared at the annual Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The CRPD has built a critical mass internationally by disrupting the ‘business as usual’ paradigm.

We believe this year’s focus areas will once again provide an invaluable platform for delegates to inspire one another to accelerate the pace of implementation of the Convention at national level.

“Every now and then a man's mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

South Africa is this year taking stock on how far we have come in marking the 10th Anniversary of us ratifying the CRPD and its Optional Protocol.

Chairperson, the democratic South Africa has a proud legacy of advancing the right to self-representation.

As such, Our national as well as eight (8) of our nine (9) provincial disability rights coordinating mechanisms, as envisaged in Article 33 of the CRPD, are led by persons with disabilities themselves.

The country’s Minister of Justice and Correctional Services; the Deputy Minister responsible for Defence and Military Veterans; the Deputy Minister of Social Development; the Free State Provincial Minister for Health; twelve (12) Members of Parliament and a number of Members of Provincial Legislatures and Municipal Councils, have disabilities.

As we commemorate International Albinism Awareness Day today, we all know that persons with albinism are often noticed by many but truly seen by very few. I am therefore proud to report that persons with albinism are represented on the Presidential Working Group on Disability, providing persons with albinism with access to the highest decision-making level in the country.

These are but some examples of giving life to our commitment to self-representation.

Our next step is institutionalising this right beyond gentlemen’s agreements and good will, taking it, among others, into law. South Africa is therefore inviting delegates to join us at the Side Event on ‘From Policy to Action – Institutionalising the Right to Self-Representation,’ which we are co-hosting with the China, Zimbabwe and International Disability Alliance.

Mr President,

The South African Constitution makes provision of most of the rights highlighted in the Convention. However, whilst we have passed legislation that requires that all administrative actions are lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair, implementation of our good policies sometimes fall short.

We will forever be reminded that, had we paid more attention to administrative justice and the credo of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to “Leave No-One Behind”, we could have avoided the Esidimeni tragedy, in which more than 100 persons with psychosocial and/or severe intellectual disabilities, passed away in 2016 as a result of poor implementation of a policy that complies with the Convention.

I am humbled to report that measures have since been put in place to ensure that these human rights violations never happen again.

Chairperson, we reported last year that the South African Government has released the country’s new national disability rights policy at the end of 2015.

We have, as part of this process, commenced with piloting the Disability Inequality Index, developed over the past three years with the support of the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Disability Inequality Index potentially provides us with a strategic quick scan on progress being made narrowing the inequality gap between persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities.

We welcome partnerships to consult on and pilot this work so that the index can find a home in the international arena alongside the Human Development Index and Gender Inequality Index.

The recently established Advisory Group on Disability Statistics under the auspices of our national statistics office headed by the Statistian General, has prioritised the standardisation of the measure of disability across administrative data to guide the development of disability inclusive and disaggregated statistics.


Collaboratively, we must ensure that no one is left behind.

In conclusion, allow me to quote Buckminster Fuller -

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

I hope this is our aspiration as we enter the next Decade of the CRPD.

I thank you.


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