Press Releases

                                                                                                                            25 May 2004

    Secretary-General Urges Committee Drafting Disabilities Convention to Maintain Momentum, Understanding as It Enters Critical Phase

    NEW YORK, 24 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the opening of the third session of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, delivered today at Headquarters by José Antonio Ocampo, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs:

    Since the creation of the United Nations, the Organization has worked for the promotion of social progress, better standards of life, and the promotion of human rights for all.  The principles of the dignity and equal worth of every human being are affirmed eloquently in our Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in all United Nations human rights conventions.

    For more than two decades, the United Nations has been at the forefront of promoting the full equality of persons with disabilities, and their full participation in the social, economic and political life of their country.  The adoption of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons in 1982, and of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in 1993, were instrumental in moving away from the traditional welfare approach towards a rights-based approach to disability.

    But as has become clear to us, more needs to be done.  Societies have continued to create disabling barriers; persons with disabilities have continued to suffer from discrimination and lower standards of living.  That is why, last year, after two years of deliberations, the international community recognized the need for an international convention, of an equal standard to other major conventions, to correct this injustice.  Since then, members of this Committee have made considerable progress.  They have shown their willingness to work towards the creation of a convention that will make a difference to the lives of 600 million people. The Working Group, which met in January this year, was a widely acclaimed success.  Representatives from governments, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and a human rights institution, as well as disability advocates and international law experts, worked long hours side by side to produce a document that now forms the basis of the work of this Committee.

    From the beginning, the work towards a convention has been exemplary in encouraging the participation of all constituencies -- governments, international organizations, national human rights institutions and NGOs at the national, regional and international levels.  Most notably, there has been an unprecedented degree of engagement by persons with disabilities and their organizations.  NGOs have been included in the discussions, bringing in their first-hand experience and expertise on disability issues.  And many delegations have included persons with disabilities, thus enriching the debate.

    Today, we enter a critical phase in the elaboration of the convention.  I urge all of you to maintain the momentum and understanding you have achieved through your participatory approach so far.  The goal of this convention is to provide a building block for the development of truly inclusive societies, in which the voices of all are heard, including persons with disabilities.  I hope you will make that objective the guiding principle of your deliberations, and I offer my best wishes for a successful outcome.

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