29 March 2007
Press Release

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York





More than 50 countries have indicated they will sign the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at a solemn ceremony that will be held at the United Nations General Assembly Hall tomorrow, Friday, 30 March.

The new Convention, which would protect the rights of the world’s 650 million persons with disabilities, was adopted by the General Assembly in December after three years of negotiations.  The treaty marks a sea-change in the perception of persons with disabilities, with an emphasis on empowering people to play a greater role in decisions that affect them.  Organizations representing persons with disabilities were instrumental in shaping the new Convention.

At its core, the Convention ensures that persons with disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else, and are able to lead their lives as fully fledged citizens who can make valuable contributions to society if given the same opportunities.  It covers rights such as equality, non-discrimination and 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.

The Convention says implementation will be progressive and does not call on budget-strapped Governments to pay for things they cannot afford.  But it sets out minimum measures to respect basic human dignity, as well as longer-term goals to achieve full integration.

Twenty countries must ratify the Convention before it enters into force, and United Nations officials believe that number can be reached during 2007.

The following 53 countries have so far announced they will sign the Convention when it opens for signature by States and regional integration organizations: Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Austria, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen, as well as the European Community.

Various countries will sign at the level of minister.  Among the expected signatories are Austria’s Minister for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection, Erwin Buchinger; Chile’s Planning Minister, Clarisa Hardy Raskovan; Croatia’s Minister for the Family, Veterans Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity, Jadranka Kosor; Denmark’s Minister for Economic and Business Affairs, Bendt Bendtsen; Ecuador’s Vice-President, Lenin Moreno; El Salvador’s First Lady, Ana Ligia Mixco Sol de Saca; Indonesia’s Minister for Social Affairs, Batchtiar Chamsyah; and Italy’s Minister for Social Solidarity, Paolo Ferrero.

Also signing will be Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad bin Zeid al-Hussein; Lithuania’s Minister for Social Security and Labour, Vilija Blinkeviciute; New Zealand’s Minister for Disability Issues, Ruth Suzanne Dyson; Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Joy Ogwu; Panama’s First Lady, Vivian Fernandez de Torrijos; Republic of Korea’s Minister for Health and Welfare, Rhyu Simin; Slovenia’s Minister for Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Marjeta Cotman; Sri Lanka’s Minister for Social Services and Social Welfare, Douglas Devananda; Spain’s Minister for Work and Social Affairs, Jesús Caldera; Sweden’s Minister for Elderly Care and Public Health, Maria Larsson; and the United Kingdom’s Minister for Disabled People, Anne McGuire.

Some 30 countries will also sign the 18-article Optional Protocol on Communications, which will allow petitioning by individuals and groups on alleged violations of their rights to a committee of experts once all national recourse procedures have been exhausted.

The ceremony, taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be webcast at www.un.org/webcast.  Speakers include United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro; High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour; the President of Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination, Gilberto Rincón Gallardo; Mr. Moreno; Ms. Dyson; and Gideon Mandesi, spokesperson for civil society (see draft programme at www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/crpdopensig.htm).

A stakeout area just outside the General Assembly Hall will be available for those officials wishing to speak to the media after signing the Convention.

A press conference at 12:45 p.m. in Room S-226 will feature Ms. Arbour; Mexico’s Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo; Ms. Dyson; Mr. Moreno; and Yannis Vardakastanis, on behalf of civil society.  A discussion on implementing the Convention, starting at 3 p.m., will feature delegates and panellists covering both political and technical issues.

Representatives of more than 350 disability organizations from around the world are expected to attend the ceremony.  It was the disability community that came together at the global level to fight for a specific treaty that would recognize their rights.  The disability community quickly organized itself into the International Disability Caucus -- a coalition of 70 international, regional and national organizations.  Member States and the disability community worked together at the United Nations to create a treaty that ensures that persons with disabilities finally enjoy all the rights and responsibilities that others in society take for granted.

For information, please visit www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable and www.un.org/disabilities/convention; or contact Edoardo Bellando, tel. 212 963 8275, e-mail: bellando@un.org, or Daniel Shepard, tel. 212 963 9495, e-mail: shepard@un.org.

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For information media • not an official record