United Nations in Bangkok to Mark Entry into Force of Treaty on Disability Rights

United Nations in Bangkok to Mark Entry into Force of Treaty on Disability Rights

A ground-breaking new international treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, will enter into force on 3 May 2008 – one month after it was ratified by the twentieth country.

In Asia and the Pacific, which is home to about 400 million persons with disabilities, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines are the three countries which have already ratified the Convention. Thailand is expected to do so soon.

The Convention is the first ever international treaty on the human rights of persons with disabilities. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, and it aims to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others.

To celebrate the Convention’s entry into force, three UN bodies in Bangkok will organize a special event on Wednesday, 30 April 2008, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 a.m., at the United Nations Conference Centre.

It is being jointly organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP’s Executive Secretary, will address the event, which will feature a keynote speech by Senator Monthian Buntan of Thailand – who is blind – on the impact of the entry into force of the Convention and the importance of its ratification for countries in the region. Ms. Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, a member of the Government of India’s Planning Commission, will also speak.

A related photo exhibition, entitled “Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities,” will be on display featuring various prize-winning photographs. The special event will also include a live musical performance by a group from Thailand, “The Network of Music and Arts of Persons with Disabilities.”

About ten per cent of the world’s total population – around 650 million people – are estimated to be living with various forms of disabilities. The percentage is even higher among the world’s poorest people, around 20 per cent of them having some kind of disability. People with disabilities are mostly marginalized and among the poorest of the poor, with limited access to education, employment, housing, transportation and health services. They represent a significant, but generally overlooked, development challenge.

Ensuring equality of rights and access for all persons with disabilities would have a beneficial impact on the social and economic conditions of each country, by enhancing their participation in education, employment, cultural, social and political activities and increasing their consumer power.

The new Convention marks a significant step in this direction. It encourages States to stop viewing persons with disabilities as passive recipients of charity, medical treatment and social protection. Instead, it casts persons with disabilities as active members of society and “subjects” who have rights and are capable of claiming those rights, being also able to make key decisions based on their free and informed consent.

NOTE TO THE MEDIA: Media representatives are cordially invited to attend this special event on Wednesday, 30 April, 2008, at 11:00 a.m. at the Reception Hall, Ground Floor, United Nations Conference Centre, at ESCAP’s headquarters in Bangkok.