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Global Treaty On Disability Rights Could Be Ready In Months
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 4, 2004

NEW YORK, NEW YORK--A treaty to ensure the rights of people with disabilities around the world could be ready for countries to sign as early as September 2005, the Chairman of the United Nations committee drafting the treaty said Friday.

The United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities completed its two-week session of negotiations which began on May 24.

Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, told reporters at a press conference that there were still significant issues to be worked out before the convention would be finalized.

"But I am a believer in optimism and human nature," he said. "We could have something substantive (ready for international signature and ratification) in September next year."

This third session included negotiations with and input from governments, non-governmental organizations and disability groups. It ended with agreement on a 24-article draft, based on "the principles of the dignity, individual autonomy and independence of persons with disabilities, their full inclusion as equal citizens and participants in all aspects of life; respect for difference and acceptance of disability as part of human diversity, equality of opportunity, and non-discrimination," according to a media release.

Chiriboga said that the treaty would contain a monitoring body to help enforce its provisions, but that its structure has not yet been decided.

The committee's next session will be held from August 23 to September 3.

It is estimated that there are 600 million people with disabilities around the world and that up to 400 million of them live in developing countries. Those numbers are expected to increase as the population ages in the next few decades.

The Bush administration announced last June that the U.S. government would not sign any international treaty protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. Administration officials said such rights should be covered by national measures, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. While the U.S. would support the work or the panel, the administration said it would not sign any document that could be legally binding.

In a related story, the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on Tom Delay, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, to support House Concurrent Resolution 169, a measure that would urge President Bush to send representatives from the Department of State to participate in the U.N. Ad Hoc Committee.

"Such representation would demonstrate the commitment of the United States to ensuring that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination and abuse around the world," wrote Wendy Patten, HRW's U.S. Advocacy Director.

Proposed modifications to articles 1 to 25 of the Working Group Draft Text As of 4 June 2004 (United Nations)
UN Enable (United Nations)
"U.S.: Lead the World in Rights for People with Disabilities" (Human Rights Watch)


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