UN Headquarters, New York, NY, 13th December 2006
Today at UN Headquarters the General Assembly formally adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, marking the conclusion of negotiations that commenced in December 2001 with the creation of the Ad Hoc Committee. The Convention is the first core human rights treaty to be adopted in the 21st century!
The session began at 10am, and was observed by a variety of NGO delegations, including representatives from several DPI National Assemblies. It was opened by the current President of the General Assembly, Her Excellency Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain. A short statement was then read on behalf of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and is available online at: http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=2362.
Prior to the vote to adopt the Convention, a number of countries made short interventions to clarify their positions (largely with regard to the articles addressing health and legal capacity) as well as welcome the imminent adoption of the Convention. These countries included Iraq on behalf of the Arab Group, Jamaica, the Marshall Islands, and the Syrian Arab Republic. There then followed an opportunity for States to issue short "explanations of vote,” to clarify the grounds upon which they would be joining consensus on adoption of the Convention. These countries included Egypt, Peru, Iran, Honduras, Paraguay, Libya, and the United States, and again the focus tended to be on the provisions addressing legal capacity and also sexual and reproductive health care programmes.
The adoption of the text agreed upon last week by the Ad Hoc Committee was next conducted by consensus, and followed by an enthusiastic round of applause from all participants! There then followed an opportunity for delegations to issue statements responding to the adoption, and included statements from New Zealand, Mexico, Finland (on behalf of the EU and associated delegations), the Southern Common Market, the Eastern European Group, Costa Rica, South Africa, China, Uganda, Argentina, the Philippines, Chile, Indonesia, Ecuador, Israel, Lichtenstein, Colombia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Algeria, El Salvador, San Marino, and the Holy See. Though the Holy See explained that it would not be able to sign the Convention because of the provisions ensuring equal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare programmes for persons with disabilities, the vast majority of the statements by delegations were hugely supportive of the Convention, the extraordinary work of Ambassadors MacKay and Gallegos as Chairs, and the essential contributions of disabled people and their representative organizations. The delegation of South Korea also noted that it would be hosting the next DPI World Assembly in September 2007, and invited delegations to come and contribute to the discussions on next steps for implementation of the convention!
As NGOs are not typically permitted to address the General Assembly, the formal session was adjourned following government statements, in order to move to an informal session in which NGOs could speak. Tina Minkowitz and Maria Veronica Reina then delivered a joint statement on behalf of the International Disability Caucus, welcoming the adoption of the Convention.
Though the negotiations for the Convention have now been completed with its successful adoption as a part of international human rights law, many delegations noted that the most important work - that of successful ratification and implementation is just beginning! It is hoped that disabled people around the world will encourage their countries to participate in the signing ceremony to be held at the UN on March 30, 2007, and that those countries will quickly move to ratify and implement the Convention in consultation and partnership with disabled people.
NOTE: This bulletin is also available to read online at http://v1.dpi.org/lang-en/resources/details.php?page=785