6 May 2008
UN Landmark Disability Treaty Entered into Force on 3 May
VIENNA, 6 May (UN Information Service) - The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force on 3 May, marking a new era in efforts to protect the rights of the world's 650 million persons with disabilities.
The Convention, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st Century, has been signed by 127 countries since 30 March 2007 and ratified by 25. The Convention needed 20 countries to ratify it before it could take effect. Jamaica was the first country to ratify the Convention, and on 3 April, Ecuador ratified it, providing the sufficient number of parties for the Convention to enter into force.
Along with the Convention, an Optional Protocol which will allow individuals and groups to petition for relief also took effect on 3 May.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the Convention "a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities." He said, "It is a historic moment in our quest for realization of the universal human rights for all persons, creating a fully inclusive society for all."
The Convention itself does not create any new rights. Rather, it aims to ensure that the benefits of existing rights are fully extended and guaranteed to the world's estimated 650 million people with disabilities.
"It had been argued that persons with disabilities were covered by existing human rights treaties, but the reality was very different," says Akiko Ito, the UN Focal Point on Disability. "Persons with disabilities have routinely suffered discrimination in the job market, in schools and in receiving public services. This Convention will make sure that these people will no longer be ignored."
By ratifying the Convention, States commit themselves to enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights, and also abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.
The Convention, one of the fastest treaties ever negotiated at the United Nations and one of the fastest to enter into force, has the strong support of United Nations member countries as well as advocacy by the global disability movement, which was instrumental in drafting the treaty.
To mark the Convention's entry into force, the United Nations will convene a special ceremony in the General Assembly Hall in New York on 12 May, with participants from governments, the UN system and civil society.
A conference of the parties is expected to be convened within six months.
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