20 June 2003


NEW YORK, 19 June (UN Headquarters) -- A vast majority of speakers expressed support for drafting a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities during the session of the General Assembly committee established to consider such a convention, which opened on 16 June at United Nations Headquarters.

The Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, which is holding its second session, could start working on such a treaty later this year.

At the opening of the session on 16 June, the Permanent Representative of Barbados, June Yvonne Clarke, on behalf of General Assembly President Jan Kavan, called for “extending the benefits of development, fully, to people with disabilities”.  She added that “a comprehensive and integral international convention” was needed to sever the links between disability and poverty, social exclusion and despair.  Such a convention, she said, would be a significant step towards “a world where people with disabilities have the same rights and civic responsibilities as all other people”.

Luis Gallegos, the President of the Ad Hoc Committee and the Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations, said at the opening that what happened at the session would have an impact not only on the rights and dignity of people with disabilities but on societies at large.  “The problem that brings us together in New York is not another negotiation, but the determination to achieve a process that started 20 years ago and whose objective is to give dignity to people with disabilities and protect their rights”.

Mr. Gallegos paid homage to the persistence and dedication of the hundreds of representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of people with disabilities, many of them present at the session, who were calling for drafting an international convention in the shortest possible time.

Johan Schölvinck, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs, said that since the first meeting of the Committee, held from 29 July to 9 August 2002,a wide range of contributions to the work of the Committee had been made.  Governments, NGOs, academic institutions, legal experts, specialists in disability issues, advocates of disability rights, and individuals had proposed draft elements for a convention.

Issues before the Committee, Mr. Schölvinck said, included the scope and purpose of the proposed convention, the areas it should cover, and its relation to existing conventions and instruments, including the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, adopted by the General Assembly in 1993.

The Ad Hoc Committee was established by the General Assembly in 2001 (resolutions 56/168), based on a proposal by Mexico, with the task of considering proposals for a convention.

There are an estimated 600 million people with disabilities in the world according to the United Nations, more than four-fifths of whom live in developing countries.

For information please visit the United Nations Persons with Disabilities Web site: or contact Maribel Derjani-Bayeh, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel. (212) 963 3897.

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