Treaty to protect persons with disabilities should be ready in two years - UN committee

27 June 2003

A United Nations committee drawing up a treaty to protect the rights of 600 million people worldwide with disabilities hopes to have a draft convention ready within two years, its President said today.

The instrument presently being negotiated will create a "verifiable and enforceable" regime for the protection and promotion of the human rights of disabled persons, committee President Luis Gallegos of Ecuador told a news briefing.

The Ad Hoc Working Group Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disability, established by the General Assembly in 2001, has been holding its second session at UN Headquarters in New York since 16 June.

Mr. Gallegos said the process constituted a major step in international efforts to legislate on behalf of the disabled community. Such a convention would also guide attitudes for generations to come.

It was an important step for the UN, which sought to be in the forefront of the evolution towards a holistic and integrated society that incorporated groups which, for different reasons, had been discriminated against, he declared. The disabled community had been participating actively in the talks, as they were the shareholders and "guiders" of the process. As facilitator, he greatly admired their dedication to meet their community's challenges.

The authors were trying to follow a regime of human rights protection and promotion, with the major subject being that of disability, no matter the reason for that disability, Mr. Gallegos said. The convention would seek to protect the individuals' human rights.

The process was at a stage of "trying to vocalize" that the convention should deal with all types of disabilities - not necessarily the causes, but the consequences of being disabled, he added. People who were disabled as a result of war or armed conflict, whose human rights were not respected, could use the convention as an enforceable right not to be discriminated against. Mr. Gallegos said his goal was to have an instrument that responded to the needs of the disabled community, whatever the cause of their disability.