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Entry into force of disability pact closes major gap in rights protection – Arbour

Entry into force of disability pact closes major gap in rights protection – Arbour

Louise Arbour, UN  High Commissioner for Human Rights
The recent entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities closes a major gap in human rights protection for hundreds of millions of people around the world, the Organization’s top rights official said today.

The Convention and its Optional Protocol, which entered into force on 3 May, does not create new rights but aims to ensure that the benefits of existing rights are fully extended and guaranteed to the estimated 650 million people around the world with disabilities.

“The speedy entry into force of both instruments attests to their centrality in the fullest possible reach of human rights protection,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which held a celebration of the entry into force of the landmark treaty today.

“As a major gap has now been closed, it is imperative that these obligations take real effect in the lives of all persons with disabilities,” she added.

The treaty asserts the rights of people with disabilities 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 allows individuals to petition an international expert body with grievances.

The High Commissioner underscored that the new treaty is about change. “It requires us to move away from charity-oriented or medical-based approaches to a human rights-based approach to disabilities. These traditional approaches and attitudes, no matter how well-intentioned they might have been, regarded persons with disabilities either as passive recipients of good will or deeds or as problems to be fixed, or both,” she stated.

The Convention embodies the celebration of diversity and the empowerment of the individual as essential human rights messages by envisaging a fully active role in society for persons with disabilities.

“It asserts that they are free to live independently in their community, to make their own choices, and to contribute to society so that we can all learn and benefit from their diverse experiences and knowledge,” Ms. Arbour said.

She added that the Council has an important role to play in the future of the treaty, noting that as the principal UN body dealing specifically with human rights, the Council is “perfectly positioned, and indeed expected, to advance the Convention’s goals among States and within the UN system.”