Secretary-General Ban hails entry into force of treaty on disability rights

3 April 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the entry into force of the first international treaty on the human rights of persons with disabilities, after the required twentieth country ratified the landmark convention today.

“It is a historic moment in our quest for realization of the universal human rights for ALL persons, creating a fully inclusive society for all,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson Marie Okabe said in a statement celebrating the rapid progress of the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in December 2006.

“The Convention will be a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacle faced by persons with disabilities,” she said, pointing to discrimination, segregation from society, economic marginalization, and lack of opportunities for participation in social, political and economic decision-making processes.

Today’s ratification by Ecuador means that the Convention, along with an optional protocol that will allow individuals and groups to petition for relief, will be legally binding as of 3 May. Tunisia and Jordan also ratified the treaty earlier this week.

Through today’s statement, the Secretary-General also congratulated the States that have ratified or acceded to the Convention. Some 126 countries have signed the Convention since 30 March 2007, and 71 have signed the optional protocol.

“It is estimated that there are at least 650 million persons with disabilities worldwide, of whom approximately 80 percent live in less developed countries,” Ms. Okabe noted.

As many as two-thirds of United Nations Member States do not have any legal protection for people with disabilities, according to the UN Focal Point on Disability Akiko Ito, even though they comprise one in 10 of the global population.

“The Convention, together with its Optional Protocol, is deeply rooted in the firm commitment of the international community to rectifying the egregious neglect and dehumanizing practices that violate the human rights of persons with disabilities,” Ms. Okabe concluded, calling on all States that have not yet done so to accede or ratify it without delay.

In a statement issued this past weekend, more than 20 UN departments, agencies, programmes, and funds pledged their support to implementing the convention.

The newly-formed Inter-Agency Support Group for the Convention said that support will focus on six main areas: policies to support the purpose and objectives of the Convention; programmes including international cooperation; capacity-building of Member States, civil society, and the UN system; research and access to knowledge on disabilities; accessibility; and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


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