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Agenda Item 5
Review of progress in the elaboration of 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

Dr. Jan Scown
New Zealand

Mr Chairman,

We are pleased to see you presiding over this important meeting. You have New Zealand's full support, Mr Chairman, as we work to take the disability agenda forward.

Mr Chairman, New Zealand's community of disabled people and human rights organisations have long been actively involved in working towards a United Nation's convention that promotes and protects the rights of disabled people.

The six core UN human rights conventions apply to all people, including disabled people. New Zealand is party to all six, and we take our obligations under those conventions seriously. But despite the existence of these treaties, as well as four non?binding disabled-specific instruments, disabled people throughout the world continue to experience violations of their human rights. In our own experience for example, the second largest group of complaints under New Zealand's Human Rights Act are those claiming discrimination on the grounds of disability, especially in employment matters.

Mr Chairman, New Zealand considers, therefore, that a new rights-based convention, specific to disabled people, is needed to complement the existing human rights instruments. It is encouraging to hear that there is widespread and growing support for a new convention, and that there is a sense of urgency in pursuing it.

Mr Chairman, New Zealand is looking to take an active role to facilitate the development of this convention. In doing so we will be guided by our own national Disability Strategy, which was produced after extensive consultation with the disability sector.

The New Zealand Disability Strategy takes a rights based approach. We believe that a rights based approach was fundamental to the development of the Strategy. We also consider it fundamental to the development of a convention. The core principles of the New Zealand Strategy are inclusion, participation, equity and partnership.

Our approach highlights the need to give special consideration to those disabled people who experience double-disadvantage, such as indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, women and children. New Zealand believes it is important that we are mindful also of the most significantly disabled, many of whom have not had a voice in fora such as this. New Zealand accepts and understands also that disabled people are not a homogenous group. In reality, some disabled people do not identify as disabled (but do experience the barriers society puts in the way of disabled people).

Mr Chairman, we believe that the approach we have taken in New Zealand, and the experience we have gained in developing and implementing our Disability Strategy, has application and resonance internationally. We look forward to sharing that experience.

Mr Chairman, we consider that it is essential, as we elaborate a convention, that there is active and full participation of disabled people and their representatives. This process should be a partnership Mr Chairman. We shall be looking for the most inclusive approach. New Zealand is pleased to see that other member states have included disabled people in their own delegations, as we have done ourselves, or assisted their independent participation. This is a pragmatic recognition of the value that they do, and will, bring to our discussions. We will be able to elaborate a better outcome because of their engagement.

In the last ten years New Zealand has made progress towards improving the lives of its disabled citizens. We still have along way to go. We believe that a new United Nations convention on the promotion and protection of the rights of disabled people will give the necessary impetus for further real progress, nationally and internationally. This meeting must demonstrate leadership in realising the full enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Mr Chairman, we welcome the momentum that this process has gained since the first session of this Committee. It is important that we consider the active contributions that have been made by regional meetings. In particular, Mr Chairman, we draw to your attention the Bangkok recommendations for elaborating a convention, which came from an expert group meeting in Thailand earlier this month. They offer a very pertinent outline of the scope, elements, principles and objectives for such a convention, and are a solid contribution to the issues that we are here to address.

Mr Chairman, it is time that this Committee took a decision to elaborate a convention. There have been many good ideas proposed, and we expect many more to come during this session. We shall be contributing to that debate. We need to decide, Mr Chairman, on a process that will capture those views and distil all the ideas into a consolidated text. The process should be a dynamic and inclusive one that will be receptive to future contributions as our consideration of a convention evolves further.

At the conclusion of this session, Mr Chairman, we would want to see this imperative captured appropriately in a resolution that sets out a process to begin work on a text. We look forward to working with others to achieve that outcome.

We hope that this meeting will, over the next two weeks, demonstrate responsiveness to the concerns of the global disabled community.

17 June 2003

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