12 May 2008 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as “a new dawn in the fight for the well-being of people with disabilities,” at a special commemorative event held in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly.
In his address, Mr. Ban called for “concrete steps to transform the vision of the Convention into real victories on the ground. We must address the glaring inequalities experienced by persons with disabilities. We must counter discrimination and prejudice. We must deliver development that is truly for all.”
In a message to the same gathering, Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said the international community had ignored the rights of disabled people for far too long.
“The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a key measure of our civilization. The rights and opportunities that people with disabilities are able to enjoy reflect directly on our common humanity,” Mr. Kerim said in his message, which was delivered in his absence by acting Assembly President Hjalmar W. Hannesson, the Permanent Representative for Iceland.
Today’s commemorative event was organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). It brought together many of the individuals from governments, the disability community and the UN System who worked to negotiate the treaty, and paid tribute to the resolute and dedicated global efforts to ensure that the rights of the world’s estimated 650 million persons with disabilities are guaranteed and protected.
The commemoration was one of several events and briefings held at UN Headquarters in New York today, to mark the Convention’s entry into force on 3 May. The CRPD does not create new rights for the estimated 650 million people around the world with disabilities, but aims to ensure that the benefits of existing rights are fully extended and guaranteed. By ratifying the Convention, States commit themselves to enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights, and to abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.
The UN Children’s Fund and the non-profit organization, the Victor Pineda Foundation, launched a child-friendly text to explain the Convention to young people, UNICEF said in a statement.
“The document aims to educate, empower and motivate all children, but particularly those with disabilities, to claim their rights and to actively participate in challenging discrimination, as well as promoting the Convention,” the statement noted.
UNICEF’s Director of Programmes, Nicholas Alipui, said: “The inclusion of children with disabilities is not a charitable act but a matter of rights. Empowering and enabling children makes them less vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation.”
The UN Human Settlements Programme, known as UN-HABITAT, also welcomed today’s milestone.
“I am proud to state that we are already moving to the implementation stage of the Convention by giving special attention to Persons with Disabilities in all our projects, particularly in slums and deprived urban neighbourhoods,” Under-Secretary-General and UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said in a statement.
Ms. Tibaijuka added that UN-HABITAT “constantly finds itself reminding policymakers at every level of the need for proper access to public transport, for alternative access to buildings, for special seating in public places, and proper care benefits.”
Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Jomo Kwame Sundaram told a press briefing in New York that the pact’s entry into force was a “historic moment” for the UN, the international community and people with disabilities worldwide.
Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang told the same briefing that the Convention was the first which clearly recognized and aimed to protect all the rights of persons with disabilities, many of whom remained “totally invisible in many societies,” due to negative attitudes and physical obstacles.
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