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Disability Issues Bill introduced

Hon Ruth Dyson
Minister for Disability Issues

1st July 2008 Media Statement

Disability Issues Bill will enable New Zealand to ratify UN Convention

The Disability (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) Bill was introduced to Parliament today.

The Bill removes inconsistencies within current legislation that will enable New Zealand to ratifying the Convention.

"I welcome the opportunity to reinforce New Zealand’s long standing reputation as a world leader in human rights issues. It is high time for disabled people to have the legal recognition that their rights are valued on an equal basis with others," said Ms Dyson.

“Given the level of activity already undertaken in line with the New Zealand Disability Strategy, and existing international human rights obligations, I was not surprised to learn that New Zealand did not have substantial issues of inconsistency with the Convention.

“However, some domestic enactments require minor and technical amendments before ratification can proceed.

“Amendments are also proposed to the Human Rights Act 1993 to clarify its obligation to accommodate the needs of disabled people.

“The Bill proposes these changes and, if passed, will allow New Zealand to ratify the Convention demonstrating an international commitment to eliminating disabling barriers," said Ms Dyson.

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Additional Information

• Since 2002, New Zealand has been a leader in negotiations on the Convention. We modelled the spirit of participation with disabled people through consultation on the evolving Convention text, and involvement of disability sector representatives in our delegations to the United Nations.

• We were able to use our experiences domestically with the New Zealand Disability Strategy to inform our contributions to the Convention process.

• New Zealand signed the Convention at the United Nations on 30 March 2007, along with 80 other States. This was the largest number of States to sign a human rights treaty on the same day ever. Since then, 129 States have signed the Convention, and 28 States have ratified it, indicating strong global commitment.

• Many of the legislation needing change are older enactments that have not been amended in some time and/or which carry over wording from the past. The key issue is removing provisions that in effect discriminate on the basis of disability. They are proposed to be replaced with provisions that do not discrimination on the basis of disability.

• The Convention does not create new rights for disabled people. Instead, it builds on conventional understandings of what is required to implement existing human rights as they relate to disabled people.

• Disabled people are defined in the Convention to include “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. This definition is consistent with the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

• The Convention makes it explicit that States must ensure the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all disabled people, on an equal basis with others, and without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability. This is already a feature of New Zealand law.

• There is strong and widespread support in the disability sector for New Zealand to ratify the Convention.

• We want to ratify the Convention because it will
- provide greater impetus and support for implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy. The Convention provides practical guidance on the implementation of the rights of disabled people, both immediately in the text and over time through the regular periodic reporting process to the United Nations.
- assist government agencies to analyse and improve, where necessary, the current mechanisms for promotion and monitoring of policy that impact on disabled people. It will also help to ensure that mainstream services are inclusive of disabled people and delivered in non-discriminatory ways.

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