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Opening Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the meeting of the Presidential Working Group on Disability, Union Buildings, Pretoria

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Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Presidential Working Group on Disability, 
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
A warm welcome to this, our first meeting for the year. 
This Presidential Working Group is an important partner in the development and implementation of government policies and programmes. 
It makes an important contribution to our effort to leave no-one behind. 
According to Statistics South Africa, around 7 per cent of our population of over 60 million people has some form of disability. 
These are not just numbers. They represent human beings who have aspirations, dreams and purpose. 
They represent citizens whose rights to equal treatment and equal opportunity should be guaranteed and protected. 
Since its establishment, this Working Group has given advisory support to government to ensure that we continue to uphold the constitutional rights of all South Africans, including persons with disabilities. 
We are the second country in the world to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which addresses the rights of persons with disabilities to access information, transport and health care. 
But we have not fully lived up to the promise of this convention, and persons with disabilities continue to face significant challenges in their daily lives.
Many persons with disabilities are often excluded from education, employment and community participation. 
They may also experience social isolation and loneliness due to their disability. 
They also face significant health challenges, including limited access to health care services and inadequate health facilities.
Transport remains a problem.
Our trains are often not accessible for wheelchair users and there is a general lack of assistance for passengers with disabilities. 
The minibus taxi industry is the main mode of public transportation for many, but presents particular challenges for persons with disabilities.
Globally, persons with disabilities face exclusion from the labour market. In South Africa, despite policies promoting inclusion, unemployment rates are even higher for persons with disabilities. 
Black persons with disabilities feel these difficulties more severely, and black women even more so.
This Working Group is a vital part of our common effort to change this.
Our goal remains the attainment of a just and free society in which persons with disabilities are treated as equal citizens. 
The commitment of the government to promoting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities is unwavering.
The African Union Protocol on Rights of Persons with Disabilities has undergone the necessary Parliamentary processes. It is now in the final phases with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to be deposited with the AU. 
International benchmarking indicates that South Africa has made progress in policy implementation on health care, education and economic opportunities. 
However, we have not made enough progress in implementing disability-related policies and legislation. There is inadequate funding for disability-related programmes and a lack of public awareness and understanding of disability issues.
As a government, we recognise that we have not done enough to support persons with disabilities.
Our vision is to create an inclusive society where persons with disabilities can live their lives to the fullest. This vision is achievable if we all work together. 
To achieve this vision, we will take the following actions: 
First, we will increase funding for disability-related programmes and services. This will include funding for education, training, employment and health care services for persons with disabilities. 
Second, we will strengthen disability-related policies and legislation to ensure that they are effectively implemented. We will work with disability organisations and other stakeholders to develop and implement disability-inclusive policies and programmes that promote the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities. 
Third, we will increase public awareness and understanding of disability issues through public awareness campaigns and community outreach programmes. 
Fourth, we will work to create accessible and inclusive environments for persons with disabilities, ensuring that public facilities and services are accessible and promoting universal design principles in the built environment. 
Finally, we will work to promote the participation of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes and ensure that their voices are heard in all areas of public life.
The finalisation and resourcing of the Working Group’s Terms of Reference are critical to the success of this work. 
The Terms of Reference, which were developed in a consultative process, need to be finalised today to guide the Presidential Working Group. 
The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities is progressively resourcing the Working Group’s secretariat. The respective work streams will be resourced through the coordinating departments in line with each priority. 
We are striving to ensure that disability is mainstreamed in all government plans and programmes, along with the necessary budgets. 
The Presidential Working Group must continue to play its critical role in guiding different government departments as they implement plans, policies, measures and programmes to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. 
The Ministers present in this meeting will be providing feedback on progress on their respective Medium-Term Strategic Framework targets on disability. 
This meeting should review progress on the implementation of the priorities of the National Disability Rights Agenda and chart the way forward. 
Now that we are in the final decade of implementation of both the National Development Plan and the UN’s Agenda 2030, we must increase the pace of change. 
There can be no sustainable growth and development in any society if there are members who are excluded from being active citizens on account of disability. 

Today’s meeting must reflect on the progress we have made in meeting our domestic and international commitments to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. 
We remain committed to implementing the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to ensure our work is aligned with the UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development. 
The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will continue to assess progress on the implementation of priority programmes for persons with disabilities. 
This meeting is an opportunity to critically engage on the work we have done to date and the tasks that we must now undertake together to advance our agenda.
With these few words, I welcome you once again and thank you for your participation. 
I thank you.