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Human Rights Pact for Disabled is 'Within Reach'

General Assembly President Says Global Human Rights Pact for Disabled is ‘Within Reach’

New York, Aug 2 2006 7:00PM

General Assembly President Jan Eliasson has urged countries to finalize a new human rights convention that would guarantee persons with disabilities the full enjoyment of their rights without discrimination.

Mr. Eliasson, in a letter to all United Nations Member States, encouraged delegations to give priority to the next round of negotiations on the Convention, which will take place in New York from 14-25 August.

In the letter, Mr. Eliasson said that some 650 million people – or one in 10 of the world’s population – are believed to be living with some form of disability, and yet there is no international convention to uphold their rights.

“We have the opportunity to agree on a landmark convention which would bring practical improvements to the lives of many people around the world,” he wrote.

Mr. Eliasson further noted that although there are still some issues to be resolved, significant progress had been reached at the seven previous negotiating sessions so that “an agreement is now within reach.”

At last year’s World Summit at UN Headquarters in New York, world leaders endorsed the need for a new convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, and last week, the UN Economic and Social Council called for the completion of the convention so that it could be adopted at the next General Assembly session.

The negotiating session will include delegates from all Member States and representatives of more than 90 non-governmental organizations (NGO). The negotiations will be chaired by Don Mackay, New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.

Proponents of the convention, which would be the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century, say a new legally binding document is needed because persons with disabilities often lack legal recourse to protect their rights. As a result, they are barred from employment and education opportunities and their needs for access to health, transportation and justice are often overlooked or ignored.

The convention would obligate countries, for instance, to gradually include disability-friendly features into the construction of new facilities, promote and improve access to education and information, and introduce measures that eliminate discriminatory practices. The convention recognizes countries will need some time to fully implement its provisions.


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