Press Releases

    Ad Hoc Committee on Convention
    on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    1st Meeting (AM)

     HR/4618
    30 July 2002

    Ad Hoc Committee on Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities Begins First-Ever Meeting

    Two-Week Session Opens at Headquarters

    NEW YORK, 29 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, recognizing that one tenth of the world's population lived with some form of disability, met for the first time today to begin a two-week session at Headquarters to debate proposals for a new international treaty.

    That debate would be a real test of whether everyone had meant what they said when they adopted the United Nations Charter, Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, told the Committee. Perhaps concepts relating to disabled persons should be reflected in a new international convention. He paid tribute to President Vicente Fox of Mexico, who had initiated the current proposal at the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

    A key characteristic of work on proposals for a treaty had been a shift in focus from care, social welfare and medical support to an emphasis on the human rights framework necessary to pursue the goals of full participation of persons with disabilities in economic, social and political life, and development on the basis of equality, Mr. Desai said. The common endeavour was to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. That was essential not only for persons with disabilities but for everyone, as everyone lost if disabled persons were not allowed to function fully in societies.

    [United Nations efforts to promote the rights of persons with disabilities had incorporated the core human rights principles set out by the international human rights instruments -- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- into disability-specific instruments. Those include the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (1982) and the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993), as well as strategic frameworks established by a series of 1990s United Nations development conferences and, most recently, the Millennium Development Goals.]

    The Committee adopted its provisional agenda and elected the following officers to its bureau: Luis Gallegos (Ecuador), Chairman; and Carina Martensson (Sweden), Vice-Chairperson. Consultations were still ongoing for the three remaining posts.

    Chairman Gallegos said that, in seeking an integrated community and a sense of society for persons with disabilities, one must always look for the universalization of human rights as the aspiration of all mankind. He agreed with the Under-Secretary-General that the matter before the Committee was not only a concern for persons with disabilities, but for society as a whole, since all were part of a social context in which that vulnerable group required special attention. More than 600 million people worldwide suffered some kind of disability. Integrating them was a truly lofty cause for the United Nations.

    Among the documentations before the Committee were: provisional agenda (document A/AC.265/L.1); working paper by Mexico (document A/AC.265/WP.1); and a note by the Secretary-General (document A/AC.265/1) transmitting a summary of the study on human rights and disability submitted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document E/CN.4/2002/18/Add.1).

    Prior to opening the general debate, members discussed proposals regarding the participation of non-governmental organizations. Speakers in the general debate were representatives from Mexico (introducing his delegation's working paper), Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), and Chile.

    The Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities will meet at 3 p.m. today to continue its general debate.

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