15 August 2005
Committee Negotiating Convention on Rights of Disabled Persons Concludes Current Session
Chairman Says Draft Convention Sets out "Detailed Code of Implementation and Spells out How Individual Rights Should Be Put into Practice"
NEW YORK, 12 August (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities today concluded its sixth session after detailed consideration of draft articles addressing issues such as children with disabilities, education, accessibility and personal mobility.
Other articles considered during the session of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, which started on 1 August, cover the rights to health and rehabilitation, to work, social security and adequate standards of living, as well as participation in political, public and cultural life and in recreation, leisure and sport.
At the session's closing, the Committee's Chairman, Don MacKay (New Zealand), said the objective of discussing the convention's second set of articles had been met. That stage being completed, the next session should move from a debating into a negotiating mode. A text was needed that one did not necessarily love, but that one could live with. Although there were some major political issues, he said he had no doubt that there was the will and flexibility to resolve all issues before the Committee. In thanking all those who had supported the session, he said civil society had made a huge contribution to the Committee's work, as its representatives brought life experience that many delegates did not have.
During a press conference earlier in the afternoon, Mr. MacKay said, "What the Committee came up with is a draft convention that elaborates in detail the rights of people with disabilities. Without creating for the most part new rights, the convention sets out a detailed code of implementation and spells out how individual rights should be put into practice."
"This is an implementation convention", he said, "since the lack of effective implementation is the underlying reason for having this convention. The rights of persons with disabilities are recognized by the other human rights conventions, but we need to actually implement these rights."
During this afternoon's meeting, Committee adopted its report (document A/AC.265/2005/L.4), as orally amended, in which the Committee recommended, among other things, that it hold, within existing resources, two sessions in 2006 of at least 10 working days and up to a maximum of 15 working days each, to be held in January and August.
The Committee reiterated the need for additional efforts to be made to ensure accessibility at the United Nations for all persons with disabilities, and requested the Secretary-General to explore and implement innovative measures for the provision of selected documents in Braille.
Further by the report, the Committee called upon the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, including the World Bank, to intensify their cooperation in support of the work of the Committee and invited the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in close collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to take the necessary steps to secure such inter-agency cooperation.
The representatives of Mali and Yemen expressed their appreciation for the hard work done by the Chair and all participants, in particular those of civil society. Mali's representative stressed that the convention should be concluded as soon as possible, as millions of disabled people were waiting for it.
"The convention is trying to create a paradigm shift in the way States approach disability", Mr. Mac Kay said during this afternoon's press conference. "The tendency has been to segregate persons with disabilities off from the rest of society. But persons with disabilities perform much better, work much better, contribute much better if included in the society. This paradigm shift is already apparent in the interventions by States, which are very different from those they made at the beginning of the negotiations."
Apart from Chairman MacKay, the Committee's Bureau consists of: Jorge Ballestero (Costa Rica); Ivana Grollovà (Czech Republic); Mu'taz Hyassat (Jordan); and Laoura Lazouras (South Africa) as Vice-Chairpersons.
Negotiations during the session evidenced the effort to achieve a convention that would meet the need of all countries. "There is an enormous gap between developed and developing countries", the delegate from Cameroon told participants, "So some provisions must be open in nature, allowing developing countries to support such provisions as well."
Disability organizations from around the world were involved, led by the International Disability Caucus, which is now composed of 47 national and regional organizations.
The second half of the Convention deals with issues that affect the daily life of persons with disabilities. Under draft article 21, States recognize that persons with disabilities have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination. States are to prevent unwanted medical interventions and corrective surgeries; persons with disabilities should receive health and rehabilitation services only after they have given their free and informed consent.
The convention is breaking new ground in this respect. "There was a tendency in the past to overemphasize the health aspect of disability", the Canadian delegate told participants, "and ignore non-health measures that prevent full inclusion. Article 21 should reflect a broad, holistic concept of health."
Draft article 22 provides that States recognize the right of persons with disabilities to work and gain a living by work that they freely choose or accept. States are to promote a labour market and work environment that are open to persons with disabilities; promote their employment opportunities, including opportunities for starting a business and for self-employment; ensure equal employment opportunities in the public sector; encourage employers to hire persons with disabilities; promote access to guidance programmes, placement services, assistive devices and vocational training; and adopt laws that protects persons with disabilities with regard to employment, career advancement, labour rights and working conditions.
Under draft article 23, States recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social security and social protection, including social insurance, without discrimination. States are to take measures to ensure access by persons with disabilities to necessary disability-related services, devices and other assistance; to social security programmes and poverty reduction strategies; to governmental housing programmes; and to life and health insurance. Persons with severe and multiple disabilities living in poverty should have access to assistance from the State to cover disability-related expenses, including for training, counselling, financial assistance and respite care.
States are also to recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the improvement of living conditions, and are to take steps to promote the realization of this right.
Under draft article 24, States are to recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part in cultural life. States are to take measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, for their own benefit and for the enrichment of their community; enjoy access to literature and other cultural materials in accessible formats; enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities in accessible formats; and enjoy access to theatres, museums, cinemas and libraries.
States are also to recognize the right of persons with disabilities to participate in recreation, leisure and sport, and are to promote their participation, to the fullest extent possible, in mainstream sporting activities; ensure that they have access to sporting and recreational venues; and have the opportunity to participate in sporting activities and receive the same instruction, training and resources as other participants. Children with disabilities should have equal access to sporting activities with the education system.
Draft article 25 provides that States designate a government focal point for matters relating to the implementation of the convention, and consider establishing a coordination mechanism to facilitate action in different sectors and at different levels. States are also to maintain or establish a national framework to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the rights recognized in the convention.
"Article 25 is the very soul of the convention", the delegate from Senegal said during the session. "There are other articles that are the head and stomach, but this will be the convention's legs and arms."
Participants also began discussing the issue of international monitoring, including the establishment of an expert body to which States parties would submit regular reports on how they are implementing the convention.
In the words of the Canadian delegate, "the true measure of success of the convention will be the real improvements in the life of persons with disabilities".
The convention's draft text is at www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/ahcwgreportax1.htm . For information, please contact Edoardo Bellando, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.: (212) 963-8275, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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