New York, 11 June 2019
Photos: Twitter (@Portugal_UN)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honor to address you today on behalf of the Portuguese Government, which is strongly committed to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.
We are in 2019, 12 years after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, one of the most ratified of all international human rights treaties. Portugal has ratified the Convention and its Optional Protocol exactly 11 years ago, and since then, it has made very significant progress in its implementation.
As I have already had occasion to affirm in 2017 in this same room, the economic crisis and the austerity measures Portugal experienced between 2011 and 2015 had a negative impact on the living conditions and the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities. The reduction of public expenditures in the social area had, as direct and immediate consequence, the negative impact in the promotion and protection of the human rights of the most vulnerable groups.
Since the end of 2015, when the current Government took office, Portugal is witnessing a real paradigm shift, emphasizing the importance of creating structural conditions for the promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities through the elaboration and the publication of legislation and the definition of specific policies, leaving aside a welfare approach for persons with disabilities.
With pride for my country's work on the promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities, during the 10th Session of this Conference, held in June 2017, I had the opportunity to share with you the creation of Social Benefits for Inclusion with the purpose of lifting persons with disabilities from the poverty line, as well as the Independent Living Support Model aiming to guarantee the equal rights of persons with disabilities. All these measures were subjected to extensive public discussion processes, involving all organizations in the field of disability and, of course, disabled people themselves.
In this year of 2019, and at this 12th Session of the Conference of States Parties, I am pleased to state that by the end of May, about 93.000 persons with disabilities are already covered by Social Benefits for Inclusion. For 2019, the Portuguese Government has made available in the State Budget a total value of 447 million euros, with a view to the implementation of the second and third phases of further development of this provision - the creation of the complement to combat poverty and widening it to childhood.
Regarding the pilot project for the Independent Living Support Model, it is important to share with all of you that Portugal has so far created 31 independent living support centers, spread throughout the country and coordinated by specialists with or without disabilities, with the objective to assist persons with disabilities. It is an innovative project in Portugal, with an initial budget of around 35 million euros. At present, we have about 700 persons with disabilities receiving personal assistance, a plan to open few more centers and a corresponding increase in the number of persons assisted.
I would also like to mention today, in this general debate, a policy of great impact that the Portuguese Government was able to implement in the course of 2018: the reinforcement of Inclusive School.
As I mentioned in 2017, Portugal had an “integrating school”, attended by about 98% of students with special needs.
However, although we achieved this level of integration that put us in the forefront in relation to other systems of education that were more developed than ours, there were still situations of “non-inclusion”.
Thus, a new legislation was approved in this area, which establishes learning support measures that allow each student to reach his potential, focusing the educational intervention in the school and in the classroom through a “multidisciplinary work involving family, teachers and specialists”. This proposal reinforced the right of the student and his family to intervene actively in the educational process, respecting their desires, motivations and vision of the future.
It also strengthened the centrality of the curriculum, emphasizing the importance of its flexible management in order to ensure that the competences of compulsory education are reached by all students, even though through differentiated learning paths that allow each one to progress in the curriculum, with a view to educational success.
This new paradigm of Inclusive Education is already in practice in this school year in all Portuguese schools, removing the idea that it is necessary to categorize to intervene, abandoning approaches that depart from the student deficit and instead value his abilities and potential, bearing in mind that it is the responsibility of the education system to educate all children and young people in a 12-years compulsory school system.
I am convinced that with this new policy of Inclusive Education, students with special educational needs will increase participation in learning, in school culture and in the Educational Community.
To conclude, I want this year to inform that Portugal will soon implement the video call service to the national emergency telephone number for the deaf population. This is an application that will allow deaf people to contact the national emergency line through video call and be answered by interpreters of Portuguese Sign Language, accompanied by a team of health specialists, who will do all the necessary referral.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Only in this way can we move towards an inclusive world, a world where all people deal with disability naturally and see diversity as wealth!
As a disabled person, I will always work in this way and apply the famous phrase “Nothing about us, without us!”
The Portuguese Government is strictly committed to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in which the main objective will always be to implement policies that make society increasingly inclusive and for all.
I thank you.