[Letters] Policies for the disabled: From dispensation to rights

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[Letters] Policies for the disabled: From dispensation to rights

The Incheon International Conferences on Disability are being held in Songdo Convensia in Incheon for 10 days starting October 24, and it is the largest event for the disabled held in Korea in history. More than 3,500 people with disabilities, specialists, activists and government officials are attending the event.

In addition to in-depth conferences and discussion on human rights and poverty issues of the handicapped, it is a festival celebrating people with disabilities.

The event is made up of four parts: The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific High-level Intergovernmental Meeting, the 22nd Rehabilitation International World Congress, the Asia Pacific Disability Forum Conference and the Asia and Pacific Disabled People International Assembly. As four major international conferences on disabilities are being held in Korea simultaneously, we can expect the issue to improve here.

In the last century, worldwide discussion on disability was mainly focused on benefits and welfare. But the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, and the paradigm is shifting from welfare to rights. Korea brought it into effect on Jan. 10, 2009.

The objective of conferences is to actively embrace changes and bring them to the next level. We need to get out of the fixed idea that people with disabilities need to receive help and benefits and approach the issue from the perspective of universal human rights. Society needs to pay more attention to the disabled so that their rights are manifested with the value of universal human rights and become established in our daily lives.

About 1 billion people around the world have disabilities, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. Fifty-seven percent of the disabled population is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region. If the conferences can provide Korean organizations with opportunities to provide assistance for the disabled in other countries struggling with difficulties, the international reputation of Korea will rise even higher.

by Kim Hyung-sik Professor of international cooperation at Korea University of International Studies
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