UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed the agreement reached late Friday on the text of a treaty to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, urging all Member States to ratify the convention and implement it quickly.

Mr. Annan called the agreement "a historic achievement for the 650 million people with disabilities around the world" that have lacked adequate protection until now. Mr. Annan added that he hoped "this long overdue Convention will mark the beginning of a new era in which they will have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else."

According to New Zealand’s Ambassador Don MacKay, who chaired the talks through their final two-week session at Headquarters, the goal of the treaty is to create a "paradigm shift in the way that governments think about disabilities" that will make a "real and concrete difference to the approximately 650 million people with disabilities worldwide."


He noted that a perception had existed in the past that existing human rights treaties applied to people with disabilities but that those rights were often not respected in practice.

"What we’re basically doing in the convention is setting out a code for governments so that they implement these broad rights that people with disabilities already actually are entitled to but are not receiving," said Mr. MacKay, speaking to reporters in New York today.

While the convention does not create new rights, it specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of life, including civil rights, access to justice and the right to education, health services and access to transportation.

The convention will be formally sent to the General Assembly for adoption at its next session, which begins in September. It will then be open for signing and ratification by all countries

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