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First Human Rights Treaty of 21St Century For Disabled People

Editor's Note: This press release from the Human Rights Commission is reprinted from Scoop Media, New Zealand, August 28, 2006:

The Human Rights Commission today welcomed the news that a United Nations committee has reached agreement on a Convention on the rights of disabled people.

Finalized in New York on Saturday, the Convention, when adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, will be the first human rights treaty of the 21st Century.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan acknowledged the leadership provided by the New Zealand government and its delegation throughout the drafting process and by New Zealand ambassador, Don MacKay, who chaired the ad-hoc committee.

"Don MacKay gained worldwide admiration for the way he managed negotiations and the Disability Issues Minister, Ruth Dyson, is to be congratulated for ensuring New Zealand supported him throughout the process."

Ms. Noonan said today that the challenge for New Zealand now is to ensure that its domestic performance matches the international leadership it has provided.

Key issues that need to be addressed include:

  • Action on public transport--a comprehensive approach to ensure accessibility.

  • Greater participation in decision making by disabled people, particularly in relation to provision of services, especially residential services.

  • Support for New Zealand Sign Language and braille users to enable them to fully participate in all aspects of New Zealand life.

  • Fully inclusive educational provision and the resourcing for it to be delivered.

Countries that sign up to the treaty will have to enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights. They will be obliged to combat negative stereotypes and prejudices and to promote an awareness of people's abilities and contribution to society.

Other measures under the treaty include guaranteeing that disabled people have a right to life on an equal basis with others and that access to public spaces, buildings, transport, information and communications is improved.

The treaty is expected to be adopted by the UN General Assembly during its next session, which starts in September.