Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs on the occasion of the 20th Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

New York, 4 April 2008

It is a pleasure and a great honour to be here on this historic occasion. Today’s 20th ratification now sets in motion the entry into force of the landmark Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, along with its Optional Protocol.

The Convention is not just the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century, with a strong development dimension.

It is also a treaty negotiated as quickly as ever at the United Nations. And it will be one of the fastest to enter into force.

This could not have happened without the strong dedication and commitment of both member countries and the global disability community. And here I wish to thank as well our partners in the UN system, particularly the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

And of course I convey my deep gratitude to Ambassadors 18, 19 and 20: Ambassador Mohammed Al-Allaf of Jordan, Ambassador Habib Mansour of Tunisia, and Ambassador Maria Fernanda Espinosa of Ecuador.

Without your ratification of this Convention, we would not be here today. Our gratitude goes to you and your countries; to Jamaica, the first country to ratify; and to all 20 countries that have ratified the Convention.

For many decades, disability rights advocates, experts, policymakers and practitioners dedicated themselves to combat ignorance, discrimination and oppression against persons with disabilities. Through their concerted efforts towards an international convention, the treaty process matured, involving more of both new and traditional stakeholders. 

The Convention is deeply rooted in the goals of the United Nations, in the Charter’s vision of a just and peaceful world and better standards of life in larger freedom. Through its 50 articles and the Optional Protocol, the Convention aims to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. It aims to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

Persons with disabilities represent a significant portion of the population, and are more likely to live in poverty than their peers without disabilities.

The Convention is thus a critical entry point for building a society for all – one that values difference, and respects the equality of all human beings. This includes ensuring the integration of persons with disabilities into development activities, and mainstreaming disability issues into the wider development agenda.

The Convention is a bold step forward. In fact, this extraordinary accomplishment carries a profound responsibility. It is now time to commence implementation. Let us begin without delay.

Thank you.

Watch the webcast and get further information on the press conference from 4 April 2008