3 September 2004


Press Release

Ad Hoc Committee on Convention

on Persons with Disabilities

11th Meeting (PM)

Committee negotiating treaty on rights of persons with disabilities

concludes two-week headquarters session


The committee charged with drafting the first-ever international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities adopted the report of its fourth session today, which reflects the outcome of the latest round of negotiations on the new instrument.

During its two-week meeting, the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities concluded a first reading of the text and focused on articles 1 to 15 and 24 bis, addressing such issues as the definition of disability, general State obligations under the proposed treaty, the need to achieve equality and non-discrimination, and various rights of disabled persons under the law, including the rights to life, survival, development, equal recognition and freedom of expression, as well as respect for privacy, home and family and being included in the community.

The treaty under negotiation was proposed to the General Assembly by Mexico in 2001, in the context of growing international recognition of disability rights as human rights.  It aims to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities, while moving beyond the traditional concept of access to the physical environment to include broader issues, including equal access to education, employment, health, and political participation.  It is expected that the 25-article convention will be presented for adoption by the Assembly in September 2005. It will create a legally binding framework for promoting the rights of the world’s 600 million people with disabilities.

Closing the session, the Committee’s Chairman, Luis Gallegos Chiriboga (Ecuador) said he wanted participants to take home the conviction that they were part of a historical process to transform the world.  The new text would incorporate over 600 million disabled persons into societies and let them fully enjoy their human rights, he said.  He also asked them to come to the next meeting with serious determination to work productively, facilitate negotiations and overcome differences.  He hoped to see quick agreement on the remaining articles of the convention.

Addressing the Committee, Italy’s Under-Secretary of State for Health, Antonio Guidi, who is, himself, a person with a disability, stressed the fundamental importance and urgency of the work assigned to the Committee.  He hoped that all participants together would create a text that would be shared by everybody, as soon as possible.  The instrument would have influence on the provision of services, breaking down social barriers and eliminating social exclusion.  Disabled people could embark on important paths.  In fact, they could help everyone, including so-called normal people, to improve.

No single country or culture could be considered perfect, he continued.  It was impossible to impose a single model on the subject of disability.  It was important to listen to others and overcome discrimination.  Some countries that declared themselves in favour of the convention did not accept diversity of opinion.  Everyone had the right to make a small or great contribution towards creating the marvellous assemblage of ideas in the proposed treaty.  Every person, country and continent could add its own tile to the mosaic.  “A strong country” that had made others wait three days on a particular point had shown its arrogance, rather than concern for humankind.  In conclusion, he proposed creation of a standing group to monitor injustices against disabled people.  “We can improve our own and your quality of life”, he said.

A representative of the World Federation of the Deaf and Blind, speaking on behalf of the International Disability Caucus, said the document prepared last January continued to be the basic point of reference in negotiations.  The third and fourth meetings had promoted an understanding of the key issues, but very little progress had been made in terms of advancing the text of the convention.  The time had come to bring the negotiations “to a good conclusion”.  The political will was there, and the Committee should not miss the historic opportunity presented to it.  Persons with disability all over the world were excluded from society and discriminated against in their daily lives.  The new instrument would put an end to that situation.  He urged governments to be flexible and avoid unnecessary discussions about sometimes identical phrases.

The Committee had the ways and means of finishing work on the convention, he stressed.  Towards that end, it was necessary to allocate adequate resources, establish a clear and ambitious calendar and avoid unnecessary delays.  It was necessary not only to draft a convention in the immediate future, but also provide adequate protection for the human rights of all persons with disabilities, irrespective of the types of disabilities and regions of the world.  The role of disabled persons’ organizations was indispensable in that respect.  Their active participation should continue, and increased effort was needed to ensure full participation of persons with disabilities in the final process.  Too often, they faced barriers which limited their possibilities for participation.  Moreover, participation of persons from developing countries continued to be limited.  Governments needed to make contributions to the United Nations voluntary fund to ensure sufficient representation from all regions.

A representative of the Landmine Survivors’ Network said that the new instrument was some 20 years overdue, as the first calls for a convention on the rights of the people with disabilities had come in the 1980s.  The world could not afford to continue waiting for the convention.  Much could be achieved in a short period of time.  In that connection, she highlighted the importance of participation on behalf of the disabled persons’ and non-governmental organizations, including those from the developing world.

The Committee also heard a report on the results of consultations within the coordinators’ group from the Coordinator of the session, Don MacKay of New Zealand.

By adopting, as orally amended, the report of the fourth session (document A/AC.265/2004/L.4), the Committee also recommended that its fifth session should take place in New York in January 2005.  The dates should be included in the relevant resolution to be adopted by the General Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.  The Committee also invited the Assembly to examine in greater detail the provision of reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities to facilitate accessibility to the United Nations premises, technology and documents.

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For information media. Not an official record.