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UN treaty to protect persons with disabilities

Proposed treaty to protect persons with disabilities will help them – chair of UN talks

15 August 2006 – A successful outcome of negotiations now taking place at the United Nations on a treaty to protect the rights of persons with disabilities could make a huge difference in the lives of almost 650 million such people, the Ambassador chairing the process said today.

“This is a convention that can make a difference,” Don MacKay of New Zealand told a press briefing in New York. “It will touch people in all countries. It will touch all of us, no matter where we come from.”

Mr. MacKay said the current round of negotiations, which began yesterday and will conclude 25 August, should be the final talks, with only a few outstanding issues yet to be resolved. “It is the shared objective of countries that this should be the final negotiation. There is no Plan B,” he said.

The provisions still under discussion relate to whether an international monitoring mechanism is necessary to ensure compliance with the convention. Some countries, the Chairman said, have taken the position that this would impose reporting burdens or would cause duplication among various other treaty bodies.

But he came down strongly in favour of a monitoring mechanism and said it was widely supported by others as well. “If we end up with a convention without a monitoring mechanism, we won’t end up with a convention.”

Touching on controversial issues, Mr. MacKay sharply disputed the notion that the convention would extend abortion rights or euthanasia. “When it comes to establishing national laws on abortion or sex education, it is up to national governments. This convention is not in the business of telling countries what they can or cannot do.” He added that the convention did say that there must be no discrimination and that if there was a law, it must extend to persons with disabilities.

Maria Veronica Reina, the Coordinator of the International Disability Caucus, told the briefing that persons with disability had been discriminated against, marginalized, barred from education, jobs and voting. “We want to like other people live,” she said.

“We expect a strong document that gives us all the rights that other people enjoy,” she said. “We want this convention now and we want this convention right.”


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