UN Panel Finalizes International Disability Rights Treaty
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 25, 2006
NEW YORK, NEW YORK--After more than five years of development and negotiations, the language of a United Nations treaty to protect the rights of the world's 650 people with disabilities was finally agreed upon late Friday.
"This marks a great day for the UN and for persons with disabilities," said Don McKay, New Zealand's permanent representative to the UN and chairman of the committee establishing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. "It's a good convention and it will make a difference for millions of people."
"I want to thank colleagues from the disability community for starting off the process and staying with it all along the way," McKay added. "As disabled colleagues say, nothing about us without us."
Delegates from more than 100 countries worked with hundreds of representatives from non-governmental disability organizations over the past two weeks to negotiate details on many articles of the convention in order to have it ready to go to the General Assembly for a full vote next month.
When it was finalized, the Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had 40 articles addressing such issues as a right to be free from forced institutionalization; to own and inherit property; participate in public and cultural life; receive an adequate standard of living; have access to affordable equipment; and protection of privacy. The draft also called for eliminating barriers to employment, the environment, transportation, public facilities and communication, and for developing countries to receive help in implementing the treaty.
Earlier this week, news circulated on some disability email groups and Christian websites that negotiations had bogged down over two controversial issues -- protecting people with disabilities from euthanasia, and recognizing a right to "sexual and reproductive health services".
Negotiations also stalled over language addressing people with disabilities in "situations of risk" such as war zones and natural disasters. Some delegates had wanted this to include occupation by a foreign power -- an apparent reference to military occupations in the Middle East. The final language on this issue reportedly was left vague on purpose.
The Bush administration announced in June of 2003 that the United States would not sign any international treaty protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. Administration officials said national laws, such as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, should cover such rights. While the U.S. would support the work of the panel, the administration said it would not sign any document that could be legally binding.
Inclusion Daily Express will provide a link to the final draft of the convention when it is published.
"At-a-glance: UN disability treaty" (BBC News)
"UN agrees disability treaty text" (BBC News)
"US Influences Disability Rights Treaty, but Wont Sign It" (The NewStandard)