Your excellency, Mr Samdech Hun Sen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome all of you on behalf of the International Labour Organization to this important seminar on "Opening New Horizons for Cambodians with Disabilities".
Disabled people are one of the most vulnerable groups in Cambodian society. They have limited access to education, skills training and income-generating opportunities. As a result, many of them are very, very poor.
The ILO sees disability as an occupational disadvantage which can and should be overcome through a variety of laws, policy measures, programmes, and services. Equal opportunity, equal treatment, community involvement and the mainstreaming of training and employment facilities are pillars of the ILO approach.
They are also the principles that inspired ILO Convention No. 159 on the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons. And they are the principles on which States party to the Convention base their national disability policies.
In Cambodia, the ILO specifically targeted disabled people, among others, in a recent project on "Vocational Training for the Alleviation of Poverty". It helped develop Provincial Training Centres in six provinces, and gave members of vulnerable groups the training they needed to become income earners.
Disabled people came in for special attention in our infrastructure projects that built roads and opened up irrigation systems in various parts of the country. They were also actively involved in the clearing under an ILO labour-based programme of the moat that surrounds Angkor Wat.
This is symbolic of the contributions disabled persons can make to their country. Our "Labour-based Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Maintenance" approach has developed suitable tools and created thousands of working hours for them to make such contributions.
The vocational training project, which I mentioned a moment ago, showed that some disabled people need extra help to reach training sites. In three provinces, the ILO/Japan Disability Resource Team Project is showing how that assistance can be given. You will hear more about the team’s work later on during this seminar.
In brief, the team enables disabled Cambodians, who could not otherwise receive training, to attend mainstream courses run by the Provincial Training Centres and by Non-Governmental Organizations in Pursat, Battambang and Siem Reap. Trainees also get help in setting up a small business or finding a job when they finish their courses. In view of the success of this approach, we hope that funding will allow it to be extended to other parts of the country next year.
The ILO has also been involved in the Information and Referral Services Programme, which the National Centre for Disabled People is setting up. Representatives of the Centre attended a Technical Consultation on Developing an Effective Placement Service for People with Disabilities, which the ILO organized in Singapore last March.
Cambodia is one of the countries we hope to see taking part in a proposed regional project to develop employment services for disabled people. If all goes well, that project will be up and running as from the year 2000.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In welcoming you here, I said this was an important seminar. Its purpose is to promote awareness of disability issues in every ministry of the Royal Government of Cambodia. We believe that as awareness grows, greater account will be taken of the needs of disabled people.
The ILO, for its part, will continue to provide support for your work in this area. I hope that you, during the two days to come, will gain the insights and inspiration you need to lend the helping hand disabled Cambodians are quietly waiting for.
I wish you a very interesting and profitable seminar.