CDA Shane Dixon’s Remarks on International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Good afternoon, esteemed guests and members of the Somali National Disability Agency.
Today, as we observe the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we reflect on our collective commitment to advancing the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, both here in Somalia and around the world.
The United States remains steadfast in its resolve to support and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. As U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated, we continue to urge governments globally, including Somalia, to engage persons with disabilities in the democratic process, combat discrimination and abuse, and ensure their inclusion in all aspects of life.
I’d like to congratulate the National Disability Agency for drafting a five-year action plan for the Somali. Your effort represents hope and progress in the fight against the disenfranchisement of persons with disabilities, a group that comprises more than one billion people globally. We look forward to incorporating the objectives of your action plan into our ongoing support in Somalia.
The United States is committed to supporting democracy and governance that uplift all citizens, especially the most vulnerable. We believe in a democracy where everyone, irrespective of their abilities, has an equal chance to contribute to their nation’s development. In our assistance programs, we actively promote increased social, economic, and political opportunities for marginalized populations, including persons with disabilities.
For example, USAID’s resilience programing provides life skills training, increased access to credit, and networking opportunities to improve livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities. Our stabilization activities in newly recovered areas begin with community consensus building activities, and we always ensure that persons with disabilities and other marginalized populations have a seat at the table.
In addition, the United States partnered with the Somali Disability Empowerment Network in our recently concluded Expanding Access to Justice Program. Through this partnership, we supported a legal aid call center, community-based “justice promoters,” and university-based legal aid clinics that provided people with disabilities, among others, assistance in navigating Somalia’s legal system.
Finally, the United States partnered with the Ministry of Education Culture and Higher Education to develop an inclusive education policy. This policy includes implementation strategies to promote disability responsive and inclusive education services. These strategies include guidance on how to establish safe learning environments and strengthen effective school governance that ensures people with disabilities and other marginalized communities feel included.
The United States strives to be a model for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. We understand that our strength lies in our diversity. The best, most durable, and lasting solutions arise when governments embrace, respect, and integrate diverse perspectives from all communities, including persons with disabilities.
As we move forward, let’s remember that true progress in democracy and governance is measured by how a society treats its most vulnerable members. We look forward to seeing the Somali National Disability Agency’s action plan come to life, bringing greater inclusion, accessibility, and opportunity for persons with disabilities in Somalia.
Thank you for your dedication to this cause, and for inviting me to be a part of this significant day.