Elements of a Disability Convention
Chairperson, Excellencies, Distinguished members of the Ad Hoc committee, NGO representatives, colleagues
The New Zealand Human Rights Commission welcomes the opportunity to participate in this meeting
The Commission strongly supports the development of a comprehensive and integral Human rights-based instrument on the rights of disabled people. This instrument should be built on existing human rights norms and standards and principles of social justice, including the right to exist.
Our Commission is developing a National Plan of Action on Human Rights for New Zealand. Although we are only in the early stages of the process, it is clear that people with disabilities in our country still face a myriad of barriers to full participation in society and are amongst the most vulnerable to abuse of their rights. It is also clear that there are gaps in current human rights instruments relating to disabled people.
Taking a human rights approach has already made a difference in New Zealand with the development of the government's Disability Strategy document and implementation process. The government has taken a significant lead to ensure a text relay system will be available to provide access to the telecommunications system for deaf people. The private sector is taking an increasingly positive attitude with the film distribution industry working to provide regular captioned screenings of movies.
Nevertheless big and complex issues remain relating to accessible transport, employment opportunities and education. The value of a human rights Convention is the legitimacy it provides to those struggling to assert their rights; the organizing strength it contributes and the visibility it gives to the issues.
A disability convention should include the principle that all disabled people, without exception, are entitled to the full benefit and enjoyment of all fundamental human rights and freedoms on the basis of equality, dignity and non-discrimination. It should mandate legal and substantive compliance.
The situations of all disabled groups and the diversity of characteristics relating to gender, age, race, colour, ethnicity and other considerations should be taken into account in the development of a convention.
Disabled people and organisations of disabled people must play a substantive role in the development process on the basis of 'Nothing About us without us.'
The elements of a convention should include
The scope of the convention should apply to public and private institutions and spheres.
State Party Obligations
I am pleased to be able to welcome the New Zealand Government's support for the Convention.
It is also important to acknowledge the work done by so many people and organisations to reach this point, the NGOs and particularly the work of organisations of and individual disabled people. I want to especially acknowledge the leadership role taken by Mexico in putting the issue on the UN agenda.
I have a great sense of hope and optimism for a successful and relatively speedy process of the development of the convention because of the constructive support that NHRIs have already provided, including their very significant role in the Asia Pacific region. I look forward to the day when we have a convention on the rights of disabled people.
18 June 2003