Development and human rights for all

Statement by H.E.Mrs. Rosemary Banks

Commemorative event: Entry into Force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol, New York, 12 May 2008

Mr Secretary-General

HRH Prince Ra’ad bin Seid of Jordan

Her Excellency the First Lady of Panama

Minister Sanchez of Ecuador

Minister Van der Merwe of South Africa


Distinguished colleagues,

New Zealand is honoured to join today’s celebration of the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As former chair of the Ad Hoc Committee that drafted the Convention, it is a matter of great pride to New Zealand that the Convention is being so quickly and enthusiastically embraced in all regions of the world.  The signature of the Convention by 80 states on 30 March last year was the largest number of States ever to sign a UN treaty on one day.  Ratification by twenty States within a year is an impressive achievement.  New Zealand congratulates those States that have ratified the Convention in such a time-frame. 

We take this opportunity to highlight some of New Zealand’s efforts to make the transition from concept to reality.  In 2006, sign language became an official language of New Zealand, together with English and Maori.  All persons with disabilities are also now living in the community, and the country has been de-institutionalised.  New Zealand commenced core funding to the Pacific Disability Forum.  Having been among the first to sign the Convention, my government is working to ratify the treaty at the earliest opportunity and once existing legislation has been brought into compliance with it.

We are grateful to Secretary-General Ban Ki‑Moon and to the High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour for their personal commitment to the rights of persons with disabilities.  We also wish to acknowledge the presence here today of the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung Wha Kang, who played an important role in the final negotiations.  Continuing personal leadership at the highest levels of the UN will be important to make the transition from concept to reality in the UN system.


The UN Human Rights Council, which New Zealand hopes to join as a member in 2009, has also begun to consider the rights of persons with disabilities in a resolution sponsored by New Zealand and Mexico.  This supports mainstreaming of the rights of persons with disabilities in the Council, including in the work of the special procedures.  We congratulate DESA, OHCHR and the UN agencies that are actively promoting the Convention, such as UNICEF and UNESCO. 


Distinguished colleagues, there is a deep sense of ownership of the Convention among States in all regions of the world, by both governments and the disability community.  In this context, we pay a special tribute to Mexico as the initiator of the Convention, Ecuador as the former Chair and the unique role of the bureau, which was also made up of Jordan, South Africa, Czech Republic and Costa Rica, as well as the contribution of disabled persons themselves. 


As we shift to a new phase of our work together, and to focus on the transition from concept to reality, New Zealand considers it essential that the spirit of inclusiveness and partnership that prevailed throughout the negotiations should continue.  In particular, during the establishment of the Conference of States Parties and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities later this year.  We note that the Secretary-General will shortly call for nominations to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  We encourage States Parties to put forward nominations so that we have a vibrant and diverse set of candidates for the treaty body.  The first Committee must be able to live up to the high expectations we all have of it.


Last week, New Zealand was honoured to receive the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award at the highest level of our government, by His Excellency Hon Anand Satyanand, Governor General.  I am pleased that the President of the New Zealand Disabled Persons Assembly Mike Gourley is here today to share this celebration with his colleague Matt Frost. This award will allow the government and the Disabled Persons Assembly and partners to give further momentum to promoting awareness of the Convention and of the rights of persons with disabilities, with a focus on young people.  It will be future generations who will be the true beneficiaries of the Convention and our collective efforts.


Thank you Mr Chairman.

 Statement by H.E.Mrs. Rosemary Banks [WORD]