Progress made in talks on UN disability convention but differences remain

21 August 2006
Amb. Don MacKay of New Zealand

The pace of progress in current negotiations for an international convention to protect the rights of persons with disabilities needs to pick up if an agreement is to be reached by the end of the week, the chair of the negotiations warned today.

Progress has been made on several key issues, said Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand, who is chairing the talks. He added, however, that delegations have submitted roughly 150 new proposals on language for the convention, and the negotiations are under extreme time pressures in order to conclude by Friday.

“We are within striking distance of having a convention that will be a huge advance in securing the rights of persons with disabilities around the world,” Mr. MacKay said. Nonetheless, he said that the process could begin to unravel if the negotiations become too prolonged.

Progress had been made, he said, in several key areas, such as on an international mechanism to monitor the convention, on a definition of disabilities and the issue of legal capacity, where countries have indicated a shift toward a policy of supporting people in their decision-making abilities rather than imposing a guardianship decision-maker for those who have intellectual disabilities.

Among the remaining issues are those that have “bedeviled other negotiations as well,” such as concerns over sexual and reproductive rights, said Thomas Schindlmayr of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at a briefing today.

Asked whether an agreement could be reached by Friday, Mr. Schindlmayr said it was too soon to predict an outcome but that many participants remained optimistic.

“There is an immense amount of good will in the room,” he said. “There is no dispute that this convention is necessary. There is no dispute that people want this convention.”


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