|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Meeting of States Parties to Convention
on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Diplomats working to strengthen implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stressed today the need for Governments to work harder to identify and tear down barriers hampering the employment of disabled persons and preventing them from participating fully in their communities.
At a Headquarters press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Sweden on the eve of the fourth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention, Maria Larsson, that country’s Minister for Children and the Elderly, said that while the first three years of the treaty’s implementation could be considered “a real success story”, much work remained to ensure an inclusive society “where everybody wins”.
With her country set to chair the Conference of States Parties, Ms. Larsson said that a good way for Governments and civil society to build on their already commendable cooperation in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities would be for them to work together in helping dismantle barriers and change attitudes that had long kept disabled people out of the labour market. The Conference would be an excellent opportunity for participants to share ideas and experiences that Governments could use to develop relevant legislative frameworks, she added.
The Conference runs through Friday, 9 September, and will focus on the overall theme, “Enabling development: realizing the rights of persons with disabilities”. Ms. Larsson described the theme as “timely”, especially given the ongoing uncertainty over the global economy, saying the international community “must understand and act on the fact that agreed development goals will be very difficult to achieve” unless the disabled persons were empowered to effectively play their roles in society.
Joining the Minister was Mårten Grunditz, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, and Ronald Clive McCallum, Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Mr. McCallum, the first blind person to be appointed to a full professorship at any Australian university — he now teaches labour law at the University of Sydney — cited a recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report which revealed extremely high unemployment rates for disabled men and women in OECD countries. “But it is clear that only through employment […] can we use our talents to contribute to the societies in which we live,” he said, adding that far too much money was being spent on providing social benefits to out-of-work disabled persons. “What we want is more money spent on programmes that will get us out of sheltered workshops and homes and into full-time employment, especially during troubled economic times.”
While the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had some 103 signatures, its Optional Protocol had only been ratified by 62 Member States, he said, urging all those that had signed the former to ratify the latter as soon as possible. The Optional Protocol allows individuals and organizations to bring complaints of non-compliance with the Convention before the United Nations.
For his part, Mr. Grunditz stressed that the Conference’s theme, “Enabling Development”, would not only tackle the employment challenges faced by disabled people, it would also focus on ways to bolster economic cooperation towards actively and effectively addressing their unique needs. As such, he hoped the work of the States parties over the next three days would feed into the overall Millennium Development Goals process.
He went on to say that the Committee’s Bureau was expecting the participation of between 400 and 500 delegates, including more than 200 civil society representatives and a host of participants from within the United Nations system. Such interest made it clear that the United Nations was “the” forum for intergovernmental work on protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.
Asked about access, Ms. Larsson said that while much progress had been made since the Convention had entered into force, every country must work to upgrade infrastructure, especially in the area of transportation. Promoting and ensuring accessibility for disabled persons would also help the elderly and people with small children. “This cannot happen in five years,” she said, expressing hope, however, that upgrading access to buildings and transportation was beginning to “pick up steam” around the world.
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