UN adopts a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
On December 13, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first ever Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by consensus. The purpose of this convention is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.” The convention will open for signature on March 30, 2007.
Participating states are to prohibit discrimination in the workplace, promote self-employment, entrepreneurship, and starting one’s own business, employ persons with disabilities in the public sector, promote their employment in the private sector, and ensure that they are provided with reasonable accommodation at work.
“For 650 million persons around the world living with disabilities, today promises to be the dawn of a new era,” declared Mark Malloch Brown, UN Deputy Secretary-General.
This convention is triply historic: it is the first major human rights treaty of the 21st century, the most rapidly negotiated human rights treaty and the first treaty to have seen the light of day thanks to lobbying conducted mainly online.
Many countries, including Canada, have already adopted comprehensive legislation in favour of handicapped persons, but the president of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya al-Khalifa, recalled that most disabled people live in developing countries, often with no such legislation.
A convention will mean enforceable obligations. In 1993, the UN adopted the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Disabled Persons, but these general guidelines were not a legally binding instrument.