13 August 2006 Negotiators from around the world will convene at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday to resume talks aimed at completing a new convention that would protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
Delegates from all 192 Member States and representatives of more than 90 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will spend two weeks trying to hammer out the remaining differences in the 33-article draft convention.
The chair of this latest session, the eighth such round of negotiations, said he is optimistic that a deal is close.
“There are many indications that the international community wishes to conclude the work of the convention,” said Don MacKay, who is New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. Mr. MacKay nevertheless cautioned that two weeks was a short time in which to reach agreement on so many complex issues.
“No one is going to get their own way,” he said. “People are going to have to start compromising.”
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would mark a major shift in the way the world's 650 million people with disabilities are treated.
“Persons with disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups in society,” said Mr. MacKay. It is estimated, for example, that 90 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not go to school.
“Only about 45 countries have legislation that deals with persons with disabilities,” said Thomas Schindlmayr of the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “As a result, persons with disabilities are less likely to go to school, get a job or have a shot at pursuing their dreams and potential than other people.”
In a recent letter to all UN Member States, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson urged countries to finalize the convention. He said that significant progress had been made at the seven previous negotiating sessions and “an agreement is now within reach.”
Persons with disabilities remain among the most marginalized of all populations and are barred by a wide range of physical, legal and social barriers from achieving their full potential. But officials say the convention could lead the way to legislation that reshapes the public's thinking about persons with disabilities, in everything from building and civic design to transportation, education, employment and recreation.
The pact would obligate countries, among other measures, 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 against persons with disabilities.