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Back to: Eighth Session of the Ad Hoc Committee


Statement by Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
to the Resumed 8th Session of the Ad Hoc Commitee on the Convention
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

New York, 5 December 2006


Thank you Chairperson,
[Ambassador Don MacKay, New Zealand]

Mr. Ocampo, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you today at the momentous occasion of the Ad Hoc Committee’s adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is the second time this year I have had the honour to address this Committee. In January, I highlighted the crucial nature of your work for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities – I am very pleased to be addressing you so soon afterwards, as you move towards the final adoption and implementation of this important human rights instrument. This drafting process has been rapid – a testimony to the seriousness the United Nations places on the need to strengthen the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.

I have already had the occasion to express my sincere thanks to some of the key actors in this process - you, Ambassador [Chairperson], your predecessor as Chair, Ambassador Gallegos, as well as the Government of Mexico. To add to this, I would also like to thank the Government of Liechtenstein for its work over the last few months in the drafting group, which has enabled us to have the final texts for adoption.

Today, I would like to pay tribute to the Ad Hoc Committee as a whole. Delegates here have demonstrated what the UN can achieve when it unites in pursuit of a common goal. I believe that this Committee has been one of the most successful collaborations between States, civil society organizations, national human rights institutions and inter-governmental organizations in any UN forum. Your determination to keep firmly in mind the objective of improving respect for the rights of persons with disabilities has made it possible for this landmark treaty to be ready for adoption. I sincerely congratulate and thank all of you for your efforts.

Chairperson, time is limited, but allow me to make some short comments on the future. In particular, I would like to highlight the importance of the Convention as a catalyst for change. We have often heard that the Convention enshrines a “paradigm shift” in attitudes that moves from a view of persons with disabilities as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection to subjects of rights, able to claim those rights as active members of society. Nowhere has this been so much in evidence as in this Ad Hoc Committee.

Over the past eight sessions, persons with disabilities have been instrumental – as members of the delegations of States, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and inter-governmental organizations - in bringing knowledge and experience to the Ad Hoc Committee – during the sessions, at lunch time events, and informally. The sharing of knowledge and experience has helped shape the legal standards comprised in this Convention. The negotiation process has clearly demonstrated that the principles of participation and inclusion enshrined in the Convention are both achievable and beneficial.

The drafting process of the Convention has also been a significant learning process for my Office. It has enabled us to strengthen our work on human rights and disability, an effort which we will continue to increase. It has also helped us forge partnerships with new actors beyond our typical human rights partners - in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations. In Geneva, we have started a process of improving the accessibility of UN buildings, conference rooms and technology – the Convention has begun a process of changing the way we work.

There is still more to be done. I stress my commitment to supporting the new Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities efficiently and effectively. Similarly, we are committed to facilitating the work of the other human rights mechanisms in the field of human rights and disability, particularly the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and the existing treaty bodies. Only two weeks ago, the Office organized an expert seminar to assist the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education in his thematic work on the right to education of persons with disabilities. I envisage more such activities with other human rights mechanisms in the future. We are improving our website so that it is more accessible, in keeping with the theme of e-accessibility for International Day of Disabled Persons last Sunday. Our country offices are already receiving requests from States and UN organizations for briefings on the Convention and its implications, and we are prepared for more such requests next year.

I stress my commitment to work with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and I am pleased to sit here today with Under Secretary-General Ocampo. I would like to welcome the excellent collaboration extended by DESA to my Office, which has allowed us to contribute effectively to your work. Likewise, I stress my commitment to work with States, other UN agencies, the World Bank and civil society as we move towards implementation of the Convention.

Chairperson, there is much we can do – often at little cost – to remedy the unacceptable marginalization of persons with disabilities and the new convention provides us with the means to identify and dismantle the many barriers to their inclusion. Men, women and children with disabilities continue to suffer breaches of their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. This is intolerable in and of itself. A failure to protect against discrimination and to recognize equality for all is an attack on human dignity. Moreover, evidence demonstrates that the failure to include persons with disability into society is a loss of enormous talent and experience for us all. Not only therefore is protection against discrimination a right – it also makes good sense for us all.

I will conclude by wishing you well for today and the important process ahead of us as we move towards ratification of the Convention. The collaborative work of this Committee provides us with the basis to move forward to the process of implementation and monitoring. I congratulate all of you and look forward to our continued work together, as we move, earnestly, towards the goal of all human rights for all and, specifically, the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.







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