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Disability treaty to correct injustices opens for signature

 Watch the ceremony live

United Nations, 13 March 2007 – A new human rights treaty that would protect the rights of the world’s 650 million persons with disabilities will be opened for signature at the United Nations on 30 March.

Over 40 countries have already indicated they will sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when it opens for signature by States and regional integration organizations at a solemn ceremony in the UN General Assembly hall. Many more are expected to announce their intention in the coming weeks leading up to the signing event.

The event takes place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the General Assembly. The ceremony, will feature among the speakers UN Deputy-Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and Gideon Mandesi, spokesperson for civil society.

A High-Level Dialogue on implementing the Convention follows starting at 3:00 pm and includes speakers and panelists covering both political and technical issues.

At its core, the convention ensures that persons with disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else, and are able to lead their lives as fully-fledged citizens who can make valuable contributions to society if given the same opportunities. It covers rights such as equality, non-discrimination and equal recognition before the law; liberty and security of the person; accessibility, personal mobility and independent living; right to health, work and education; and participation in political and cultural life. The treaty will enter into force when ratified by 20 countries.

Disability organizations from around the world are expected to attend the ceremony. It was the disability community that came together at the global level to fight for a specific treaty that would recognize their rights. The disability community quickly organized itself into the International Disability Caucus – a coalition of 70 international, regional and national organizations. Member States and the disability community worked together at the UN to create a treaty that ensures that persons with disabilities finally enjoy all the rights and responsibilities that others in society take for granted.

The convention demands real change through effective legislation and a shift in attitude. The 45 countries that have enacted some legislation in this area have already demonstrated that change in the area of rights for persons with disabilities takes place far more rapidly when there are laws.

The convention says implementation will be progressive, and does not call on budget-strapped governments to pay for things they cannot afford. But it sets out minimum measures to respect basic human dignity, as well as longer-term goals to achieve full integration.

Also opening for signature is an 18-article Optional Protocol on Communications, which will allow petitioning by individuals and groups on alleged violations of their rights to a committee of experts once all national recourse procedures had been exhausted.

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