Press Releases

UNIS/INF/36
3 December 2004

International Day of Disabled Persons

United Nations Plans Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities

VIENNA, 3 December (UN Information Service) -- The theme of the “International Day of Disabled Persons“ which is commemorated today, is “nothing about us without us.” It is this feeling that is reflected in the joint initiative between the United Nations and representatives of disabled persons, who have come together to draft the first United Nations Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.     

“This year’s International Day of Disabled Persons focuses on the goal of full and equal participation by persons with disabilities in social life and development” said United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on the occasion. For many years, persons with disabilities tended to be viewed as “objects” of welfare policies. Today, as a result of a dramatic shift in perspective, persons with disabilities have started to be viewed as people who should be able to enjoy the full spectrum of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights.

About 600 million persons in the world experience disabilities of various types, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Eighty per cent of the persons with disabilities -- some 400 million in number -- live in low-income countries, which are inadequately equipped to address their needs. All over the world, persons with disabilities continue to suffer from discrimination and have lower standards of living. In Austria, according to various estimates, among others from the Ministry for Social Security, around 10 per cent of the population -- some 800,000 persons -- live with disabilities.

It was in response to their needs that the United Nations initiated the drafting of the International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. Since disabled persons are best placed to comment on issues that affect them and offer potential solutions, the United Nations worked closely with non-government organizations (NGOs) representing persons with disabilities in the drafting process.

This breakthrough convention would be the only universal human rights instrument specifically addressing the situation of persons with disabilities. Among other things, the draft convention covers equality and non-discrimination, equal recognition as a person before the law, liberty and security of person, freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, living independently, being included in the community and the right to work.                 

Furthermore, the draft convention mentions the specific problems of persons with disabilities. It will provide established international legal standards on disability rights and mechanisms for effective monitoring, including reporting on the implementation of the convention by governments and NGOs.

The draft convention establishes a framework for international cooperation and will educate all participants engaged in the negotiations. It comprehensively addresses all kinds of barriers faced by persons with disabilities, including disqualifying legal regimes -- such as denial of the right to vote, open bank accounts or sign contracts -- as well as social and economic barriers such as discrimination in employment and inadequate standards of living.

The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities shall be ready for signature by 2006.

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