21 August 2006


21 August 2006
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE on rights of persons with disabilities


Updating correspondents today on the progress of negotiations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Thomas Schindlmayr of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs said that the Ad Hoc Committee, negotiating that instrument, still had “an immense amount of work” ahead of it, but there was a feeling that finalizing the Convention by Friday was achievable.

He reported that while Ad Hoc Committee Chairman Don MacKay ( New Zealand) was pleased with the progress made on a number of key issues, he had urged the participants to accelerate their efforts to reach agreement, noting that the Secretariat had received more than 150 new proposals from delegations over the weekend, which could jeopardize the reaching of an outcome.  A failure to reach agreement this week could lead to the unravelling of the process, according to Mr. MacKay.

The Chairman had referred to progress on two vital issues to date, Mr. Schindlmayr continued.  One related to the establishment of an international monitoring mechanism that was necessary for an international treaty of such nature, and the other to the issue of legal capacity, a contentious issue in the disability area.  Where in the past there had been a notion of substitute decision-making for some persons with disabilities, whereby decisions would be made on their behalf, there had now been a shift to the understanding that a “support mechanism” decision-making process would be a better way to move forward.

Asked what main issues the media should be reporting in connection with the draft Convention, Mr. Schindlmayr replied that the world’s 650 million people with disabilities were among the most marginalized groups in every society, adding that only 45 countries had anti-discrimination legislation.  The reality was that most persons with disabilities did not enjoy the rights that anybody should theoretically have.  In developing countries, 90 per cent of children with disabilities did not attend school; unemployment rates among people with disabilities reached 98 per cent in some countries; and a person’s basic right to vote was sometimes compromised by the mere existence of stairs leading to the ballot boxes.

Responding to a question about the role of the United Nations in promoting the rights of people with disabilities, he said the Convention would be an important first step that would make progress easier on a number of issues.  That in itself was an important achievement for the Organization.

Regarding the situation in the negotiating committee, he said there was “an immense amount of good will in the room”.  There was no dispute over the necessity of the Convention or the fact that people wanted it.  Delicate negotiations were still going on, but it was fairly certain that the work would conclude by the end of the week.

Asked whether the new instrument would address the needs of people with disabilities in conflict zones, Mr. Schindlmayr said article 11 of the draft Convention dealt with “situations of risk” to ensure that Governments had better contingency plans in place, and promoted a better understanding of how to deal with the needs of persons with disabilities in a risk situation, which could involve not only war, but also natural disasters.

Regarding outstanding issues, he said that besides sexual and reproductive health, which had “bedevilled the process”, the two outstanding issues were the definition of a person with a disability and international monitoring.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.