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Agenda item 7
Contributions to proposals for a comprehensive and integral international convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities

New York, 16 to 27 June 2003

Ambassador Fumiko Saiga
Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations

Mr. Chairman,

We are pleased that we have witnessed significant progress towards the elaboration of a Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities as a result of regional and national efforts to follow up the first session of the Ad Hoc Committee last year. Now, in the midst of the deliberations of the second session of the Ad Hoc Committee, the Government of Japan thinks it is important to conduct an exhaustive discussion on what kind of convention we are going to have.

Recognizing the importance of protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, the Government of Japan is of the opinion that a new convention would serve precisely that purpose. At the same time, so that the new convention will contain guiding principles of universal value and be implemented effectively, we think it imperative for it to gain support from as many stakeholders in the international community as possible.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government of Japan is fully committed to the rights-based approach. This approach was affirmed in the Bangkok Recommendations, the outcome of the ESCAP meeting this month, and some countries have stated that it should be one of the concepts underlying the new convention. We support this approach especially because it has significant implications for our future endeavors to realize a society in which persons with disabilities will in no way be treated in a discriminatory manner.

Secondly, if we are to make a separate and independent convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, as is the case with other human rights conventions, it will be necessary to identify which rights are already covered and which rights are not adequately covered by existing human rights conventions and relevant UN resolutions. Considering that human rights conventions apply to all individuals including persons with disabilities, we should like to have concrete input from civil society, including the nongovernmental organizations present here. In this connection, the Government of Japan is of the view that at this stage we should be open to different types of convention, be it comprehensive or focusing on non-discrimination aspects. The Government of Japan believes that priority should be given to the work of identifying the specific content of the new convention rather than apriori deciding matters such as type of convention we should have.

Thirdly, although the Government of Japan considers it important to deliberate on the definition of persons with disabilities, it is not productive to spend too much time, if this means sacrificing time that could be used to discuss the content of the convention.

Fourthly, regarding causes of disabilities, we do not deny the value of exploring the relation between disabilities and poverty. Nevertheless, we do not accept the idea that a social development approach should be introduced into the convention so that it will be codified as one element of what will be a legally binding instrument. We are concerned that too much attention to the social development dimension might derail the work we are doing to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities.

Fifthly, the Government of Japan considers a monitoring mechanism to be indispensable to any human rights convention. But at the same time, we should take into account the ongoing discussion on reform of the human rights treaty bodies. No matter how effective a convention may seem to be it would in fact have no meaning if we failed to ensure that it would be implemented by State Parties. We therefore should examine with care the additional burden that would be created by the establishment of a new monitoring system. Let me stress that we should bear in mind not only how many States become parties to the convention but how widely it will actually be implemented. Further, let me remind you that a new monitoring system should not be used as an excuse for not conducting monitoring under the Standard Rules.

Mr. Chairman,

The argument I have made, I believe, needs to be discussed by the governments, international organizations and NGOs present here. Let me conclude by reiterating our willingness to actively participate in that discussion.

Thank you very much.

18 June 2003

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development