Inauguration New Facilities of Dreams Academy

01 Jan 2010

Speech of the RC/RR UNDP, Shahid Najam

Her Excellency Ms. Minister,
Honorable Mr. Mayor,
Our stakeholders from Vodafone Turkey and AYDER,
Dear children, families,
And Distinguished Participants,

Dear Guests and Distinguished Participants:

Disability only takes one second and could happen to any of us at any moment in time… either at birth, or any time after that… Any one of us could have narrowly avoided an accident on the way to this event… and it is unknown if any of us presently has any condition that could lead to a disability in future years…

Upon arrival to Turkey, I, myself was disabled because I did not speak the language…

Likewise, many of us will experience something close to a disabiliting function at any point in our lives – for example, failing eyesight, breaking an arm or leg, mobility impairments associated with natural pregnancy, or any other function…

Similarly, many of the inventions associated with disability are actually used by any one of us. We may buy an audio-book to listen to in our car on the way to work. The audio-books were initially designed for the blind. We may adjust our computer settings in order to see the screen better, similar to many who have sight problems, and the list goes on…

We have developed the Dreams Academy together with Vodafone… and the next step lies in including disabled individuals in EVERYDAY and ANY OTHER project that may come up. The key is not necessarily to sympathize, empathize, pity, or help through charity, but rather to find various ways to include those who may be socially excluded in any other daily function.

The UN has various human rights instruments related to the disabled. A training on the disabled is MANDATORY for all UNDP staff.

Similarly, there are various national laws associated with the rights of the disabled. (this is now in the National Constitution of Turkey but this may be slightly political to mention because pro-neg to the Constitution was almost 50% / 50%).

What is key is that ALL of us ENABLE ourselves to understand what the obstacles are to the disabled. Not by assumptions or pity, but through dialogue.

Those who are part of the performances we now will watch have taken great strides to be part of something.

The key obstacle was not in their MEDICAL ability, but in finding a way to take part in events and overcome the SOCIAL obstacles that initially hampered them.

I invite you to not only watch these events, but to find the time to converse with the performers after the conference. What they have to say is just as valuable as any of our speeches.

And after this event, I would invite you to include the disabled in planning any functions or events in your own regular events; and to take a participatory assessment approach in designing the projects. The participatory assessment approach is such that projects and social services are planned through discussion with the recipients. Some of the recipients of the projects may also be part of the organizers or included in the execution of the project in any way.

The UN Rights-Based –Approach ensures that those who are socially disadvantaged are enabled and empowered through their individual RIGHTS (through change of law or change of social policy, and social understanding, etc…) and not through a sense of CHARITY.

Through empowerment comes equality.

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I am very honored today that we are observing this very special occasion in which the Dreams Academy is opening up its new facilities in the Anatolian side of Istanbul.

This occasion also marks the launch of the second phase of the Dreams Academy Project that we are undertaking with our valued stakeholders since 2008.

As the United Nations Resident Representative in Turkey, I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to all those involved in this achievement.

This academy and the project itself are dealing with a very delicate issue, and implications of this project are far beyond itself.

The Dreams Academy was founded two years ago in order to realize the dreams of a group which is in fact often neglected globally.

Indeed, the number of this socially disadvantaged and mostly young people is not low at all globally.

Let me draw a picture with figures for you to illustrate the global scale of the disabled people.

First, I would like to reiterate that, persons with disabilities make up ten per cent of the world’s population.

And the disability is mostly not the only disadvantage that this group has.

Because, it is associated with twenty percent of global poverty, according to World Bank.

At this point we have to highlight again, the correlation between the poverty and disability.

Most of the disabled people live in developing countries. These people are typically among the very poorest; they experience poverty more intensely and they have fewer opportunities to escape poverty than non-disabled people.

Disabled people are largely invisible, are ignored and excluded from mainstream development, in most places.

Disability also cuts across all societies and groups. The poorest and most marginalized are at the greatest risk of disability.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Millenium Development Goals set by the world leaders in the year 2000,  draw a roadmap on which priority areas should the humanity proceed. We have only five more years left to meet these goals which have been set for the year 2015.

These Goals paves the way towards the human development or the world.

And the human development cannot be achieved without the full and effective inclusion and consideration of the special needs of persons with disabilities in planning and programming stages.

For this reason, the United Nations Development Programme supports efforts towards social inclusion, and sees these essential projects, like the one we witness here today, as part of its reason of existence.

In fact, since its establishment, the United Nations has promoted the well-being and integration of disabled persons.

Today, approach to disability moved from medical model to social model. This model identifies systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society –either purposefully or inadvertently- that mean society is the main contributory factor in disabling people.

I am really pleased that the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled, which has been adopted two years ago, is now signed by 147 countries and ratified by 95 countries including Turkey.
 
Countries that join in this convention engage themselves to develop and carry out policies, laws and administrative measures for securing the rights for this socially disadvantaged group.

Countries that sign this convention commits themselves to abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination to guarantee that persons with disabilities enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others.

I am really glad that Turkey showed its commitment on the issue by becoming one of the early signatories of this convention.

I would like to stress here that one particular article of this convention urges countries “to promote participation in cultural life, leisure and sport by guaranteeing that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative potential not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of society.”

Dear guests,

That is exactly what the Dreams Academy Project is achieving here in Turkey. I believe this success story will lead new exemplary implementations, good practices with its domino effect.

Dreams Academy in fact is one of the first practices around the world within the context of the Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled.

This academy shows the world that the social inclusion is achievable. And this success has been awarded by various valuable international prizes so far. We as the UN family in Turkey are proud of this academy and its success.

Last but not least, I would like to thank to the Government of Turkey (State Planning Organization) and to the Vodafone Turkey Foundation for providing the resources and the encouragement to realize this outstanding academy.

We obviously should also thank to Ataşehir (Pronunciation: ATA-SHEHIR) Municipality and Istanbul Rotary Club for providing the premises to the use of Dreams Academy.

Alternative Life Association (AYDER) and its volunteers, members and other supporters for their work also deserve a big appreciation.

And of course I would like to thank to students and their families for their participation and outstanding achievements created under the roof of the Dreams Academy.

Thank you.