28 August 2006

Disability Convention Committee Struggles to Conclude Treaty

NEW YORK, 25 August (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee finalizing the first Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today spent most of the morning in informal consultations, trying to resolve some of the most controversial issues.

The Chair of the Committee, New Zealand's Ambassador Don MacKay, finally opened the plenary at 12:45 p.m. to assess the situation.  Stefan Barriga (Liechtenstein) reported that an agreement had been reached on the final clauses, and the Committee proceeded to adopt them "ad referendum" (subject to reference).  The clauses deal with signature, ratification, accession, entry into force, amendment, reservations, dispute settlement, depositary and authentic texts.

Mexico's Ambassador Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo announced that an agreement had been reached "just a few minutes ago" on international monitoring, now spelled out in articles 34 to 40.  The articles deal with Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (article 34), reports by States parties (article 35), consideration of reports (article 36), cooperation between States parties and the Committee (article 37), relationship of the Committee with other bodies (article 38), report of the Committee (article 39) and Conference of States parties (article 30).

However, there was no agreement the location of the new monitoring Committee, Mr. Gomez Robledo said, with the proposed text stating, "The Committee shall meet at the United Nations Office in Geneva or at any other place it deems convenient, in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions."

Mr. MacKay suggested adopting articles 34 through 40, with the item on the venue to be left open for the final adoption of the text to be adopted by the General Assembly.

Mr. Gomez Robledo then introduced the 18-article Optional Protocol on Communications, which would allow petitioning by individuals and groups to the Committee once all national recourse procedure had been exhausted.  The Protocol, he said, which would be adopted and opened for signature at the same time as the Convention, mostly followed the structure of existing treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

While expressing the intention to join in the consensus, Jorge Ballestero (Costa Rica) expressed its disappointment, maintaining that "the Optional Protocol will be remembered not for what it includes, but for what it leaves out.  The Ad Hoc Committee criticized the mistakes of the past but did nothing to solve them."

The proposal supported by Costa Rica would have allowed country visits by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, at the invitation of States parties, to provide advisory services and technical assistance.

Costa Rica had shown flexibility, Mr. Ballestero said, but other delegations had not.  His country would retain the right to invite the members of the Committee for advisory services, cooperation and support.

The Committee then adopted articles 34 through 40, and Mr. MacKay asked whether the Committee could adopt the 18 articles of the Optional Protocol.

Mr. Ballestero said the Optional Protocol could have been part of the Convention, precisely because it was optional.  Again, the Committee had not taken the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past.  However, Costa Rica would join in the consensus.

The Optional Protocol was then adopted, followed by a long applause, and Mr. MacKay closed the plenary at 1:25 p.m.

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