|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON DISABILITIES CONVENTION ENTRY INTO FORCE
The coalition that had helped to speedily bring into force the groundbreaking Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must maintain its momentum to ensure the treaty’s implementation, Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, told correspondents this morning.
“The strong and effective coalition between Governments, disabilities groups and human rights institutions that has given us this Convention has to maintain its energy, so that the treaty brings significant change on the ground,” Ms. Kang said prior to a ceremony commemorating the Convention’s 3 May entry into force.
Joining her at the Headquarters press conference were Prince Ra’ad Bin Zeid of Jordan; Claude Heller, Permanent Representative of Mexico; Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); and Lex Grandia, Chairman of the International Disability Alliance CRPD Forum.
The first human rights instrument of the twenty-first century, the Convention was also the first to commit signatories to recognizing persons with disabilities as subjects of the law with clearly defined rights, she said. It had already resulted in improvements in the situations of those persons.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), for example, was already using the treaty at ground level. In Uganda, it had helped to gather a coalition of citizens to build ramps for access for those disabled who previously had to crawl up stairways. In addition, psychiatric hospitals were being monitored and the displaced disabled were receiving special attention.
Persons with disabilities remained invisible, however, in many societies, and were still prevented from full participation in society. “So we must all work with this Convention as the legal tool to break down these barriers, so that the wider community sees persons with disabilities actively participating in society and living in the community,” Ms. Kang said.
Mr. Sundaram remarked that the historic moment had been brought about in record time because of the high level of cooperation among its coalition of supporters and the fact that the group included many disabled groups working together. He pointed out that Convention was unique, because it included both rights and development dimensions. He expressed hope it would help development programmes become more inclusive in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, as 80 per cent of the approximately 650 million disabled in the world lived in poverty.
The priorities now were to raise awareness of the Convention and to collect as much expertise as possible to encourage the most effective implementation at the national level, Mr. Grandia added. For him, one of the treaty’s greatest achievements was the recognition of the legal capacity of disabled persons; that is, the right to be taken seriously as a person and to make one’s own decisions.
For Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid, an important factor was that the treaty united the international community “towards the goal of creating an inclusive community”. Jordan, he said, had already been active in implementing the Convention, creating a national strategy, updating laws and putting in place a monitoring body.
Highlighting the close partnership between Governments and civil society that had resulted in the Convention’s success, Mr. Heller said that the treaty marked the end of the medical and paternalistic approach to the issue of disability. He looked forward to the universal acceptance of both the Convention and its Optional Protocol.
In reply to a number of questions from correspondents, the panel said that a monitoring body would be established within six months of the Convention’s coming into force, made up of 10 members to start. Early United Nations activities in support of the Convention included mainstreaming disabled issues into all human rights and development activities on the ground.
Asked if the matter of legal capacity for disabled persons was still in contention, the panel said the issue was complicated and meant different things in different countries. However, a footnote avowing that special categories of disabled persons were not able to make their own decisions had been dropped, they said.
Asked about other challenges to the Convention’s implementation, Prince Ra’ad said awareness of the rights and problems of persons with disabilities had to be built from the ground up, and there was a long way to go. In addition, Mr. Sundaram said, now that disability was being mainstreamed into a range of other issues, it would become intertwined with other problems. “That’s what it means to be mainstreamed,” he said.
* *** *For information media • not an official record