Drafting UN treaty on rights of disabled requires 'new approach' - panel chair

24 May 2004

Creating a binding international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities requires "a new approach" that integrates traditional human rights themes with diverse emerging concerns such as access to new technologies, and human rights and development, the Chairman of a United Nations treaty-drafting committee said today.

Speaking at a press briefing, Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador, Chairman of the UN General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee drafting an international convention on protecting the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, stressed that during its two-week session, the panel would look beyond long-established non-discrimination measures and consider integrating other, forward-looking issues of concern to both physically and mentally disabled persons.

In order to ensure a breakthrough convention of comprehensive scope, Mr. Chiriboga said, those concerns would range from the technological change in communications and biotechnology and genetics, to war and conflicts, epidemics or poverty in a globalized world. In the twenty-first century, such new agendas would have a major impact on the lives of people with disabilities and on whole societies, he added.

In that context, he said, the civil society, along with transparent, participatory governments would also constitute a major part of a successful effort to advance the treaty process. The Committee's efforts towards a broad-based convention would also require strengthening a "dynamic web of interrelationships" between international, national, regional and local civic institutions, working closely together to achieve the universal of human rights for all persons, with or without disabilities.

He said the World Health Organization (WHO) had estimated that some 400 million to 450 million of the world's 600 million disabled people lived in developing countries. And with the world's population aging rapidly, the number of disabled persons would certainly increase.

Stressing that it would take more than money to comprehensively address the needs of persons with disabilities worldwide, Mr. Chiriboga said that it was not simply a governmental issue, but a societal one. It was necessary to change the customs and mores of society to make it more integrated and holistic. Therefore, resources were not the only requirements, but also attitudinal changes as well.


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