A new United Nations convention to protect the rights of persons with disabilities is within reach and could be adopted later this year, the chairman of the negotiations said today as he opened what may be the final round of talks.
Don MacKay, New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, told delegates to the talks and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that a successful conclusion would mark a “significant outcome for the UN.”
He said he hoped the negotiations could be wrapped up at the two-week session in New York and that the convention could be adopted by the General Assembly at its 61st session.
“It is extremely gratifying to have such a large turnout for what we hope will be the final meeting on the working text,” Mr. MacKay said, adding that most provisions in the text under discussion were either finalized or very close to being finalized.
“We open with the expectation that we will be able to complete our work,” Mr. MacKay said. “We have a lot of work to do but I am confident that we will manage to conclude our work successfully at this meeting.”
Mexican Ambassador Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo said that the convention, by giving an “international impetus against discrimination of so many people,” will also provide an impetus to action at the national level.
In preparing for the meeting, the UN constructed a special ramp to the podium, removed seats to accommodate wheelchairs, and established a power station so that participants could recharge battery operated wheelchairs and other electronic devices. A Braille embosser was also installed to provide Braille copies of documents under discussion.
Mr. MacKay noted that while previous negotiating sessions had achieved considerable progress, this session would confront the more difficult issues. Among them is international monitoring of the convention, an issue that has been controversial in many human rights treaties as some countries believe some monitoring mechanisms are unduly intrusive or burdensome.
The proposed treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, would be the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century and would mark a major shift in the way the world’s 650 million people with disabilities are treated. Presently, discrimination against persons with disabilities is widespread – for example, it is estimated that 90 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not go to school.