Fruition of groundbreaking treaty on disability rights hailed by UN officials

4 April 2008

The top United Nations human rights and development officials today warmly welcomed the news that yesterday the first international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities got its twentieth ratification, meaning that the landmark treaty will now come into force on 3 May.

“I am extremely happy,” Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in Geneva, noting that people with disabilities and their supporters struggled for a very long time to achieve this result.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of this ground-breaking Convention, which fills an important gap in international human rights legislation affecting millions of people around the world.”

The 50-article Convention asserts the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities.

It also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves.

The convention’s Optional Protocol, which will also be binding starting 3 May, allows individuals to petition an international expert body with grievances.

“Persons with disabilities all across the world have faced discriminatory treatment and egregious human rights violations on a daily basis,” Ms. Arbour said. “Now, finally, we have a solid international legal framework in place that should allow them to cast off restrictions that have been placed on them by the rest of society.”

At UN Headquarters in New York today, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary for Economic and Social Affairs, also greeted the Convention’s entry into force with enthusiasm.

“This Convention is not just the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the twenty-first Century with a strong development dimension,” said Mr. Zukang, who was joined at a press conference with the Permanent Representatives of Jordan, Tunisia and Ecuador – the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth ratifiers, respectively.

“It is also a treaty negotiated as quickly as ever at the United Nations and it will be one of the fastest to enter into force,” he added.

The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006, and was opened for signature and ratification on 30 March 2007. Acquiring the 20 required ratifications can sometimes take several years.

In addition to the States that have now signalled their ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a further 106 states have taken the preliminary step of signing the Convention, thereby signalling their intention to ratify it somewhere down the line.

“To have 126 signatories in the first year is impressive,” said Ms Arbour. “But we will continue to urge all governments to follow the first 20 States' example by signing and ratifying as soon as possible,” she added.


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