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Arbour welcomes entry into force of “ground-breaking” convention on disabilities

4 April 2008


GENEVA -- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has warmly welcomed the news that Ecuador on Thursday became the 20th country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with the result that the Convention and its Optional Protocol will now come into force one month later, on 3 May.

“I am extremely happy,” she said. “Persons with disabilities and their supporters have led the struggle for a very long time to bring this about. I cannot stress enough the importance of this ground-breaking Convention, which fills an important gap in international human rights legislation affecting millions of people around the world.”

The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006, and was opened for signature and ratification just over a year ago on 30 March 2007. The Convention had to be ratified by 20 states before it came into force – a process that can sometimes take several years. In addition to the 20 states that have now signalled their ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a further 106 states have taken the preliminary step of signing the Convention, thereby signalling their intention to ratify it somewhere down the line.

“To have 126 signatories in the first year is impressive,” said Arbour. “But we will continue to urge all governments to follow the first 20 States’ example by signing and ratifying as soon as possible,” she added.

“Persons with disabilities all across the world have faced discriminatory treatment and egregious human rights violations on a daily basis,” Arbour said. “Now, finally, we have a solid international legal framework in place that should allow them to cast off restrictions that have been placed on them by the rest of society.”

The 50-article Convention fights discrimination in relation to a wide range of rights that are often not accorded to persons with disabilities, either deliberately or through neglect. These include the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law. The Convention also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves. Its Optional Protocol allows them to petition an international expert body.

“We need to get moving on the implementation now, which means transposing the provisions of the Convention into national laws,” Arbour said. “Changes to the law help speed up changes of attitude. We have seen that in many other human rights areas. Persons with disabilities can and should be seen as full and active members of society, with a full set of basic rights, not as people dependent on good will or charity. We must now focus on removing the obstacles that prevent their full participation in society. With the entry into force of this treaty, that dream is now much closer to reality.”

The full text of the Convention and its Optional Protocol can be found at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disabilities-convention.htm