In Acceptance of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award
New York, US
23 March 2005
I am especially mindful today, that in just a few weeks, it will be exactly 60 years since the world mourned the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was a man who – from the prison of his own leg-braces – championed global freedom. In the largest sense, Roosevelt understood that if this earth is to prosper and thrive, all people must have access to the promise. He worked to create a better life, not for himself alone, or his country alone, but for the people of the world.
Today, those of us who are working for global development and reform, take inspiration from Roosevelt's model. We know that free and successful societies must open the doors to opportunity and hope for all. Because every person has a right to make the most of their life. And every person has a contribution to make to their nation.
This philosophy is the centrepiece of Jordan's commitment to the disabled. It begins with the devoted work of so many people. I think first and foremost of my father, His Late Majesty King Hussein, and his enduring message that every member of the Jordanian family is precious. I think also of dedicated public officials and members of non-governmental organisations and even private citizens, who have taken tremendous initiative.
A key milestone was Jordan's 1993 “Law for the Welfare of Disabled Persons.” This law affirms the right of disabled citizens in society. It also established Jordan's National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons. This Council brings together leaders from across society to speak for the disabled. The Council's great work has resulted in a wide range of programs to diagnose, treat and accommodate disabled citizens.
Let me note just a few examples: New, early detection programs. New, advanced-medicine genetic counselling. Free health insurance cards for the disabled. Specially designed educational facilities. A new building code. A university education, with 90 percent of the tuition paid for disabled Jordanians who pass the secondary schools exam. A special enforcement unit to oversee job opportunities. Sign Language on national TV news and also in mosques during Friday prayers. And in the works, is a national training centre for community-based rehabilitation.
Jordan has also joined the international community in supporting sports activities. We were very proud of Jordan's participation in the recent Athens Para-Olympic games.
It must be said that historically, developing countries have faced a special challenge in assisting those with disabilities. In hard-pressed economies, it may seem difficult to meet exceptional needs: specialised health care and education, community and workplace accommodation, adequate transportation and communication services. The damage created by regional conflict can also hold back progress.
Jordan's approach to its challenges has been to invest in our strengths. We are convinced that a comprehensive approach to development and reform helps all society advance. And so we have committed to ensuring that our social, educational and economic systems are open to our disabled citizens.
But in this interlinked world, no country succeeds alone. As we go forward, we seek the support of all members of the United Nations in drafting the Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities. Let us work together for this shared goal with a maximum sense of urgency.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to all the Jordanians whose work is recognised by today's award. They include countless government officials and parliamentarians. And many individuals, including members of my family, who have worked their hearts out for these issues over many decades.
I must also express my gratitude to the many dedicated representatives of the international community and NGOs. I think we have all taken inspiration from the dynamism and hard work of Lord Morris of Manchester, a pioneer for disability rights. I would especially like to thank the Chairman of the World Committee on Disability, Alan Reich; Ambassador William vanden Heuvel of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute; distinguished members of the Roosevelt family; and Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his UN team.
My friends, in 1931, F.D.R. called support for the disabled “a great cause, one of the greatest causes of humanity.” Today, it is our cause. Jordan is proud to be part of that effort. We invite all people to join us in working for a future of opportunity and hope.
Thank you very much.