Media Center



  May 31, 2007

PANAMA CITY, Panama—The Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert R. Ramdin, called for a concerted effort to support the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, calling this a “fundamental moral obligation.”

Speaking in Panama yesterday at the close of the Inter-American Conference on the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities and Their Families, Ramdin said such an effort needs to be made at the global, regional, national and individual level. “The absence of this commitment in our society reflects poorly on the intent and quality of our civilization,” he said.

The conference was held on the eve of the Thirty-Seventh Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly, which will take place June 3-5 in Panama City.

More than 400 people with disabilities attended the two-day conference, sponsored by the Panamanian government and the OAS. Besides Ambassador Ramdin, other participants in the closing ceremony included Panama’s Minister of Social Development, María del Carmen Roquebert León, and the Director of the National Secretariat for the Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities, Manuel Campos. Education Minister Miguel Angel Cañizales also attended.

“I believe that it is incumbent upon governments and society at large to respect basic rights and freedoms of all people,” Ramdin said. “This is an approach that is supported by the OAS as we work toward the elimination of all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities.”

While the ability to understand and embrace differences is a source of strength, he said, “all too often, minority ethnic groups, indigenous communities and individuals with disabilities, among others, are marginalized to the point of invisibility and denied access to opportunity.”

“It is clear that our countries cannot obtain desired levels of development, stability and democracy when a significant percentage of the population is deprived of real opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential,” Ramdin added.

Praising the government of Panama for its efforts to combat discrimination against persons with disabilities, the OAS Assistant Secretary General reiterated the call for those member states that have not yet done so to join the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities.

Reference: GA-02-07