Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
State Chancellery Building
Tbilisi, Georgia
December 6, 2013

As prepared

Prime Minister Garibashvili, Minister Alasania, Captain Arabuli, and Mr. Dzneladze, I am pleased to be back in Georgia and to see firsthand the remarkable progress you have made in recent years developing not just your physical infrastructure but your democratic institutions as well. Mr. Prime Minister, I congratulate you on taking office and reiterate the United States’ commitment to continuing to promote Georgia’s security and prosperity. Thank you for organizing today’s event.

The U.S. Government is proud to support public and private efforts in Georgia to overcome physical and economic barriers for people with disabilities. As Secretary Kerry said recently during his testimony to Congress about the importance of ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ensuring non-discrimination, inclusion, accessibility and human dignity for people with disabilities is “something very real. It’s about things that you can see and you can touch and that make a difference to people’s lives.” So, just days after the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I am delighted to be cutting a ribbon for an accessibility ramp at the State Chancellery that signals the highest offices of government are open to all. Our message today is that Georgia’s democracy embraces every citizen, including persons with disabilities, and treats everyone as equal members of society with the same civil rights.

Through our mutual efforts during recent years, Georgia has made notable progress in the inclusion of people with disabilities. We are proud to have funded, through USAID, projects that strengthen organizations to effectively advocate for women, men, and children with disabilities. Thank you to the Coalition for Independent Living for your years of work to provide equal access for people with disabilities, including, most recently, hosting the successful International Day of People with Disabilities forum, which the Prime Minister and an impressive number of members from his cabinet attended. But there is still much more to be done.

I also want to recognize the tremendous contributions and sacrifices Georgia has made as part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. U.S. and Georgian soldiers stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the field – and we stand together in caring for the wounded. The United States is committed to assisting Georgia in caring for its wounded warriors. You can count on us to help those wounded in service and to assist Georgia in establishing its own capacity to care for its wounded warriors. I salute the service of Georgia’s wounded warriors, six of whom are here today.

By joining together in this whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort, we pave the way for all of Georgia’s citizens, including those with disabilities, to have access to their elected leaders, to be included in civic debate, and to continue to create a government that is accountable and inclusive of all its citizens.

Thank you.