Key articles in draft disability treaty approved at UN meeting

12 August 2005

Marking another step forward for persons with disabilities, the United Nations panel negotiating an international treaty codifying their rights has wrapped up its sixth session having agreed on draft articles on such issues as education and children's disabilities, as well as accessibility and personal mobility.

The rights to health and rehabilitation, the right to work, social security and adequate standards of living, as well as participation in political, public and cultural life and in recreation, leisure and sport, were among the other articles negotiated during the current session of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, which has been meeting at UN Headquarters in New York since 1 August.

Briefing the press on the work of the session, the Chairman of the Committee, Don MacKay of New Zealand, spotlighted the importance of the draft instrument not only for some 600 million people worldwide with disabilities, but also for the UN, which had an opportunity to show, once again, that it could come up with a convention that would have a direct impact on people's lives.

In its present state, the draft convention contained about 25 articles, he said. What the authors of the draft convention tried to do was to strengthen the rights of people with disabilities and to set out a more detailed code for their implementation. "For example, persons with disabilities had freedom of movement, but that right was not of much use to people confined in wheelchairs if no accommodations were made for accessibility," he said.

The convention also sought "a paradigm shift" away from the tendency to segregate people with disabilities and towards social inclusion. "People with disabilities actually perform, live and contribute much better if they are included in the community – be it by way of inclusive education, inclusive health, participation in political life, or measures to improve accessibility," he said.

Mr. MacKay also stressed the active involvement of civic groups in the Committee's work. Some 400 civil society representatives had registered for the meeting – the largest number ever, he added. This has given the drafting process "a very unusual flavour." The participants had been very focused on the issues and there had been genuine interaction on the text and proposals, he said, adding: "This was not one of the United Nations meetings where people are sitting there reading prepared statements at each other."

The last two weeks had "gone pretty well" for the negotiations on the draft instrument, he said. The Committee had conducted "a detailed read-through" of the draft and identified the areas of differences and convergence.


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