Cautious optimism as talks on UN disability treaty near end

Amb. Don MacKay of New Zealand

25 August 2006 – The chair of the negotiations on a new United Nations convention to protect the rights of persons with disabilities said he was confident that a deal could be reached, despite several key differences between Member States as the talks entered their final day.

Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand said many of the participants meeting at UN Headquarters in New York remained confident that an agreed text could be achieved by tonight.

“We are definitely within striking distance,” he said. “I think it will be finalized.”

The Coordinator of the International Disability Caucus, Maria Veronica Reina, said she was also cautiously optimistic.

“Even though the last mile is the most difficult mile, we are almost there,” she said.

If the negotiations succeed, the convention – which could be adopted by the General Assembly during its upcoming session – would mark a turning point in ending official discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Mr. MacKay said about half of the convention has already been agreed upon and he expected agreement today on some of the more difficult issues, such as an international monitoring mechanism, education, and the clauses which would spell out how the convention would take effect.

“All of us know that agreement is within reach at the end of this week,” Mr. MacKay said. But delegations, he added, had to ask themselves whether sticking to a position would prevent their government from becoming a party to the convention. “If the answer is no, please do not insist on a position,” he implored.

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