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Independent rights expert calls for more support for UN treaty on disabilities

Independent rights expert calls for more support for UN treaty on disabilities

Welcoming the dozens of countries which have signed the landmark new treaty protecting the rights of the world’s estimated 650 million people with disabilities, a United Nations independent expert called for more States to back the pact and foster inclusive education.

Vernor Muñoz, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, issued a statement today describing the large number of signatures to both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol as “a very positive sign of a change of attitudes towards persons with disabilities.”

Some 81 Member States and the European Community signed the new treaty on 30 March, a record for the first day of signature of any convention, while 44 nations signed on to the Optional Protocol.

The Convention needs 20 countries to ratify it to enter into force, and so far Jamaica is the only country to have taken this step.

Congratulating the countries that have signed, Mr. Muñoz “also would like to strongly encourage States that have not yet signed to do so, hoping that in the near future all States will ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol.”

The Convention outlaws discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of life, including employment, education, health services, transportation and access to justice.

It requires that public spaces and buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, and calls for improvements to information and communications infrastructure.

The Optional Protocol will give individuals recourse to an expert committee on the rights of persons with disabilities when all national options have been exhausted.

Mr. Muñoz said international instruments such as the Convention “constitute a fundamental mechanism for the realization of the right to education of persons with disabilities, since they crystallize the commitment of States to protect their rights, recognize the link between inclusive education and the right to education of persons with disabilities, and lay down the legal bases for its implementation.”

Mr. Muñoz, who serves in an independent, unpaid capacity, reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.