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Disabilities Treaty to benefit one in five NZers

Media Statement
For Immediate Release

02 May 2008

Disabilities Treaty set to benefit one in five New Zealanders

One in five New Zealanders will directly benefit from a world-first disability rights treaty that comes into force on Saturday, 3 May 2008.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed by 81 nations in March last year, and has since been ratified by 20 countries. New Zealand has yet to ratify the agreement.

Members of ComVoices, an independent coalition of Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector, welcomed the convention and are calling for the Government to make New Zealand's ratification of the convention a priority.

Ric Odom, Chief Executive Officer of YMCA says the Convention is a watershed for human rights everywhere and is long overdue in ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy basic human rights.

New Zealand has been recognised for its role in helping to write the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with the US$50,000 Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award from the World Committee on Disability and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

The grant, being presented to the New Zealand Government on 6 May at the United Nations, will be used to promote the convention in New Zealand. The Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) is undertaking this work, with support from CCS Disability Action and People First.

"The prize money will go towards ensuring all New Zealanders are aware of the convention. By celebrating it and educating people we hope to ensure the convention rights are enshrined in our New Zealand communities," Wendi Wicks, National Policy Researcher of the Disabled Persons Assembly says.

"Disabled people are the world's largest minority. It is estimated that around ten per cent of the world's population, or 650 million people, experience
disability. This figure is increasing through population growth, medical advances and the growing numbers of people living to older age".

"May 3 is a day of celebration for those organisations that have been advocating and campaigning so hard on behalf of all New Zealanders with disabilities for recognition of their basic rights," Tina Reid, Executive Director of the New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations says.

"Disabled people and disability organisations all over the world worked with their Governments to support the Convention, as the strongest ever statement of their rights. This effort has brought it to the forefront of the international agenda, so it has gone through the United Nations system remarkably quickly compared to other human rights treaties," says Dave Henderson, Coordinator for ANGOA, the Association for Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa.

The convention covers issues of equality, non-discrimination, equal recognition before the law; liberty and security of the person; accessibility, personal mobility and independent living; right to health, work and education and participation in political and cultural life.

Janine Stewart, Acting Chief Executive of IHC New Zealand says, "Sector organisations were instrumental in making sure that disabled people and their representative organisations were directly involved in the convention negotiations, including as part of official delegations".

"This was a first for the United Nations and will hopefully be a precedent for the future – nothing about us, without us," Wendi Wicks, National Policy Researcher of the Disabled Persons Assembly says.

"Disabled persons have worked with member states at the United Nations throughout the process. It's great to see all groups working together, and especially fitting to see people with disabilities involved in developing the treaty – that's exactly the sort of thing the treaty recognises."

Tim Burns, Executive Director of Volunteering New Zealand says the Government should be congratulated for listening to the Sector.


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