Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Julie Chung at the Announcement of USAID Grant to Veterans International Cambodia (VIC)

As Prepared for Delivery
National Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled, Phnom Penh
July 13, 2015

His Excellency Sem Sokha, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation; Mr. Keo Rithy, Country Director of Veterans International Cambodia; Partners, ladies, and gentlemen:

I am very happy to be here with all of you today. On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I would like to thank the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation, Veterans International Cambodia, and our other partners for their collaboration and support for this event. I would also like to express my gratitude to all participants who are improving the lives of tens of thousands of Cambodians with disabilities by helping them meet their basic needs and decrease their dependence on others. You are helping them realize their full and productive potential and more fully participate in society.

According to the United Nations, people with disabilities constitute approximately 15 percent of the world’s population. It is estimated that Cambodia has more than 700,000 persons with disabilities, which is about 5 percent of the total population of the country. Many of these individuals need rehabilitation, prosthetics, and other necessary services to overcome challenges in their life and enable their integration into society.

These are often some of the most vulnerable people in society. They face physical, social, and economic barriers that prevent them from receiving quality and affordable health care, rehabilitation, education, and other services. In many countries around the world, individuals with disabilities and their caregivers often are taken out of the workforce because of discrimination or the lack of educational, vocational rehabilitation, and training opportunities. The response to these challenges must be a balanced combination of prevention, rehabilitation, and measures for the equalization of opportunities.

The U.S. government is committed to the inclusion of people who have physical and cognitive disabilities, and to those who advocate and offer services on behalf of people with disabilities. Through projects like Rehabilitation and Prosthetics Program for Persons with Disabilities in Cambodia – which we are launching today – we are proud to support organizations like Veterans International Cambodia. This partnership reflects our long-term commitment to people with disabilities here in Cambodia and around the world.

The U.S. government also recognizes the vital role of host country governments in creating a supportive environment for disability advocacy and services. Host governments not only create the regulatory environment, but they also assure quality standards and coordination with donors that provide the basis for sustaining these efforts. The Royal Government of Cambodia has taken some important steps to address challenges facing persons with disabilities. These include the adoption of the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009 and the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012.

In addition, we applaud the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation for willingly accepting the transfer of rehabilitation centers and other responsibilities from Veterans International Cambodia by the end of 2016. With the support and commitment demonstrated by the Cambodian government, donors, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders, Cambodia will continue to increase its efforts to promote, protect, and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities.

Your collaboration and support for this much needed program will help some of the most important and vulnerable segments of society. On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I thank you for your hard work and wish you great success, both now and in the future. It’s NGOs like VIC that form the cornerstones of a strong civil society. I hope that the Cambodian government, partners, and the public all recognize that supporting a thriving civil society will mean a more prosperous nation.

Thank you.