Representing the UK at the UN General Assembly

The world came together today for the biggest disability rights meeting to take place in five years  – and I was proud to represent the UK.

With one billion people globally facing unequal access to education, employment, healthcare, social support and justice as a result of disability, this was my chance to demand an end to this great neglect.

But actions speak louder than words and, on behalf of the British Government, I announced a range of measures which will improve the lives of disabled people in the poorest parts of the world.

At the UN General Assembly in New York, I pledged that children with disabilities in the developing world will be able to access and use all schools built with direct UK funding from this day forward.

It is telling that of the 57 million children currently out of school in the world today, over a third have a disability.

So school construction the UK directly supports in the developing world will now be built using ‘universal design’, with easily accessible entry points and toilets, wide entry doors, wide aisles, ramps with railings and handles, and water points with easy-access levers.

We will also work with partners to improve the global data on disability, in particular focusing on children with disabilities and their special educational needs, and on information about access to water and sanitation facilities.

And I urged governments in the countries we support to deliver on their commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

As a global community, we have a duty to safeguard the most vulnerable. If developing countries are to move forward into prosperity and greater self-reliance, they must take everyone on the journey.

With the on-going discussion of what development should focus on when the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, we have a once-in-a-generation chance to finally put disability on the agenda.

My announcement came on the same day Britain reaffirmed our commitment to tackling three killer diseases with new support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Over the last year, I have seen the success of the Global Fund for myself during visits to Africa and assessed the life-saving role it plays.

So I was very proud that the UK committed £1bn to the Global Fund over the next three years so long as others join us in ensuring it meets its target of $15bn and our contribution is 10% of the total replenishment.

That will save a life every three years with antiretroviral therapy for 750,000 people living with HIV, 32 million more insecticide-treated nets to prevent the transmission of malaria and TB treatment for over a million more people.

In just one day, the UK underlined its commitment to those in greatest need. We have risen to the challenge – now we need the rest of the world to follow us.