Remarks at the Opening ceremony for the "Beyond Barriers" Photo Exhibition (Mr Guy Thijs)

by Mr Guy Thijs, Deputy Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Bangkok | 15 May 2008

Senator Monthian Buntan,
Mr. Claude Scheffer,
Honoured guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to welcome all of you to this photo exhibition: “Beyond Barriers: Images of Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities”.

Its aim is to highlight the ability of people with disabilities to work productively, support themselves and contribute positively to society.

The photos on show here are the winners and finalists in a regional photographic competition that was organized by the ILO at the end of 2007. We asked photographers -- amateurs and professionals -- to submit photos of people with disabilities engaged in decent work or advocating for their rights to decent work.

In response we received almost 250 entries from 19 countries in Asia and the Pacific.

But this was more than a photo competition. It has been a major awareness campaign to focus attention on the 400 million-or-more people with disabilities in the Asia Pacific region. In particular, on the approximately 250 million of working age.

As you will see from these pictures many people with disabilities are actively involved in all types of work, both employed and self-employed. Tonight we honour their achievements, their drive to succeed and their contributions to their country’s development and productivity.

These photos also highlight the need - and the right – of people with disabilities to have “Decent Work”.

The ILO’s Director General Mr. Juan Somavia has described decent work as “work that meets people's basic aspirations, not only for income, but for security for themselves and their families, without discrimination or harassment, and providing equal treatment for women and men with and without a disability.”

Some of the photos here show work that does not match this rosy picture. That is one of the messages of the exhibition. The pictures reflect the reality of working life for many disabled people. Despite hard work, talent and dedication, millions of disabled people face significant obstacles when trying to attain the things that, most of us would agree, are essential for decent work -- health care, education, and the recognition of human rights.

On behalf of the ILO I would like to express our appreciation to the Irish Aid for supporting this exhibit. I would like to express our profound gratitude to Mr. Scheffer and the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel for hosting this event. Their generosity will help to change public attitudes and so build support for the ILO’s goal of achieving decent work for people with disabilities.