21 August 2006

Disability Convention Committee Begins Review of Entire Draft

NEW YORK, 18 August (UN Headquarters) -- Stronger references to the right to development should be made in the first Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities being finalized at the United Nations, China said this morning at the negotiations.  "This Convention is not only about eliminating discrimination, but about social development," China's representative said.

The General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee that is finalizing the Convention began this morning a quick review of the whole text, revisiting the preamble and the first seven articles, which deal with issues such as equality, non-discrimination and the rights of women and children with disabilities.

As requested yesterday in the interest of time by the chair of the negotiations, Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand, delegations have been circulating on the floor numerous written proposals on additions or changes to the text.

The European Union argued for adding in the preamble that persons with disabilities and their families should receive support, information and services that contribute to a full and equal enjoyment of their rights.  Costa Rica called for a specific reference to action by national tribunals to redress violations of rights of persons with disabilities.

The International Disability Caucus, which groups more than 70 international organizations, called for a specific mention of women's reproductive rights, since "in many countries women with disabilities are denied the right to have babies because of their disability", the Caucus representative said.  The Caucus also asked for a reference to the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as to non-verbal communications, stating that "it would benefit immensely the large group of people who communicate non-verbally".

However, Mexico called for restraint in "adding new proposals to a text that we are trying to conclude", and Mr. MacKay warned that "we are not at the stage of putting together compilations, as we did six sessions ago.  We are not in a position to repeat the debate we had at the previous sessions."

Mr. MacKay set a deadline of midnight tonight for submitting new proposals, adding that proposals of form could not be examined, but only those without which the Convention would not be ratified.  "Please keep your proposals to an absolute minimum," he said.

"Nobody should expect to get everything they want in the Convention, otherwise we will have no Convention," Mr. MacKay said.  "Please be realistic, and please consult with delegations, especially the ones that have opposite views."

Informal meetings are continuing to find a compromise on language on which there is still no agreement.  The Republic of Korea and Jordan have convened an informal meeting between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. tonight on the definition of disability, and Mexico will hold an informal meeting on Sunday on international monitoring of the implementation of the Convention.

Yesterday afternoon, the Committee debated the article dealing with situations of risk for persons with disabilities.  Under the draft text, States parties are to take all feasible measures for protecting persons of disabilities in situations of risk, as they are a group in especially vulnerable circumstances.

Sudan, on behalf of the Arab group, argued for including a specific reference to the need to protect the safety of persons with disabilities under foreign occupation.  Several delegations supported the addition, arguing that persons with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in such situations, and proper steps should be taken to protect them.

But various other delegations opposed the addition, which might open the door to a "shopping list of situations of risk" while leaving out items that should be included.  For its part, the International Disability Caucus called on countries not to politicize the Convention and focus on the protection of persons with disabilities.

"We know that this is a controversial issue", Mr. MacKay said.  "There is a need to find appropriate language, and I am asking our colleagues to consult informally so that we can find a way through that is acceptable to all."

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