I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and my own country Finland. We welcome this year's panel discussion on the right of persons with disabilities to live independently in the community.
Persons with disabilities should have the same opportunities, benefits and services as other individuals in society at large. Ensuring accessible and inclusive environment for everyone is an important objective for all Nordic countries.
We work closely together to find good examples of effective strategies for inclusion and empowerment. Since 2013 the Nordic Council of Ministers – an intergovernmental body for cooperation in the Nordic Region – is advised by a Council for Nordic Co-operation on Disability. It secures a strong focus on disability issues in the work of the Nordic countries, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A new action plan for co-operation in the period 2015-2017 will have three focus areas: Human Rights, Diversity and Freedom of Movement for persons with disabilities.
The possibility for persons with disabilities to live independently is important in order to ensure full participation in the society. Independent living in the community places demands on, amongst other things, access to high-quality welfare services such as service and technology, as well as on accessible living environment. To boost innovation and cooperation for independent living for the elderly and persons with disabilities, the five Nordic capitals have just this year launched the Nordic Independent Living Challenge.
One size does not fit all. Persons with disabilities are a heterogeneous group and represent a significant proportion of the Nordic population. We need to listen carefully to the various voices of persons with disabilities on their needs and wishes when preparing decisions concerning them.
We would like to ask the panelists how discrimination in relation to persons with disabilities and their independent living can best be overcome (e.g. to avoid "not in my backyard" prejudices); are there good examples of human rights training and education in this regard?