|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
Anybody in the room on 13 December 2006 when the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted had felt the tremendous spirit behind the movement and understood that a “key tool to transform our societies” had joined the ranks of international human rights instruments, correspondents were told today as the Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the treaty convened at Headquarters.
The meeting, which runs through 14 September, is being hailed by its organizers as the largest international meeting ever on disability issues. Tasked with assessing progress among the 119 States parties to the Convention and its Optional Protocol, its main focus is on accessibility and technology, training, and the integration of women and children with disabilities into society. (See Press Release HR/5106.)
Participants at this afternoon’s briefing, moderated by Pragati Pascale, Chief, Development Section, Department of Public Information, included: Adam Kosa, Member of the European Parliament and the European People’s Party, and Chair of the informal session on women with disabilities; Jenny Nilsson, President, Youth Section, World Federation of the Deaf, and Swedish delegate to the Conference; and Fred Doulton, Social Affairs Officer, Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Translated from sign language, Mr. Kosa’s remarks underscored the desire of the more than 1 billion persons with disabilities worldwide to be responsible members of the international community and of their own countries. More and more Governments, he noted, were attending the Conference and more and more were changing or modifying their laws in accordance with the Convention. The conference room had nearly been filled two years ago at the last such meeting, he said, but now, two “overflow rooms” were needed to accommodate participants.
He saw the session as an opportunity for people with disabilities and non-governmental organizations to increase the movement’s visibility and empower people and their Governments to change. Using his own country as an example, he said Hungary had ratified the Convention in 2007, and in the past four years, many changes had occurred as a result. In 2009, for instance, a law on sign language had been passed, mirroring what was happening worldwide in ratifying countries.
Concerning accessibility and technology, he said the media revolution was transforming societies, and the new technologies were giving people with disabilities new ways and greater access to information, which supported their quest to live independently. Women with disabilities, he pointed out, were doubly discriminated against, and the Conference would have to focus on ways to “reduce the poverty that led to that kind of neglect”.
Ms. Nilsson, also communicating through a sign language translator, explained that the Youth Section represented deaf youth and children. She said it had made significant progress, but it was still the case that people without disabilities were usually the ones who made the decisions for people with disabilities. The Conference should ensure that all people, including children with disabilities, were empowered to speak for themselves.
Responding to questions about the number of participants, Mr. Doulton said there were more than 700 people in the room meant to accommodate no more than 550. Along with the 119 States parties were many observers, such as the Holy See. Non-State parties, such as Israel and the United States, which had signed the Convention but not ratified it, were also present as observers. As a result of the Convention, he noted, the United Nations was also adapting, including with the use of sign language at press conferences and closed captioning on its webcast.
Asked about advice for Governments with respect to children with disabilities, Ms. Nilsson said integrating them into their communities required education, and for deaf children, that meant sign language. However, only 3 per cent of deaf children around the world were taught in sign language. To a question about the situation in Lithuania, Mr. Doulton said the Convention was legally binding on that country, which was a State party. He also drew attention to the range of side events, including one being conducted by the European Union.
To another question, he said that least developed countries had no budgets for persons with disabilities, and what little they did have, was being cut, making the situation “quite desperate”. Ms. Nilsson added that there were developing countries with good resources and sound pilot programmes, and that they were not the only ones that “need help”; a lot of the richer countries also needed to make better progress. Mr. Kosa agreed, drawing attention to the Convention’s Optional Protocol, which enabled citizens of ratifying countries to submit complaints to a national body. The countries had to report yearly to the Committee monitoring compliance with the Convention.
Pressed to identify which developing countries were doing the best, Ms. Nilsson said many had deaf people in their parliaments, which, she added, was not the case in the parliaments of many developed countries.
* *** *