The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force yesterday, one month after the final country of the 20 needed to ratify voted for the landmark treaty to guarantee the rights of some 650 million people worldwide.
Since March 2007, the Convention — which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called “a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities” — was signed by 127 countries and ratified by 25.
The Convention does not create any new rights, but aims to ensure that the benefits of existing rights are fully extended and guaranteed.
“It had been argued that persons with disabilities were covered by existing human rights treaties, but the reality was very different,” says Akiko Ito, the UN Focal Point on Disability. “Persons with disabilities have routinely suffered discrimination in the job market, in schools and in receiving public services. This Convention will make sure that these people will no longer be ignored.”
The treaty asserts the rights of people with disabilities to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law.
It also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves.
John Flanagan, Officer-in-Charge of the UN Mine Action Service, said the new treaty is particularly relevant for survivors of accidents with landmines and explosive remnants of war.
“Too often, landmine victims are excluded from their communities,” he stated. “For example, child survivors of landmine incidents are often removed from school. Landmine victims are entitled to all the same human rights as every other member of their societies, and this new Convention will help level the playing field in terms of access to services and opportunities.”
The UN will mark the treaty’s entry into force with a special ceremony in New York on 12 May with participants from governments, UN agencies and civil society.