Statements made on the Adoption of the Convention


Ms. President,

Argentina aligns itself with the statement delivered by the Delegation of Brazil on behalf of MERCOSUR and associated States, and it congratulates itself on the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, the first international instrument dealing specifically with the protection of the human rights of this vulnerable group.

The Delegation of Argentina maintained an active involvement throughout the negotiations that took place in the Ad Hoc Committee, supporting at all times a wider participation of duly accredited non-governmental organizations devoted to disabilities issues. We consider it is indispensable to take into account the points of view, the concerns and the input of the civil society in this topic.

In this line, and bearing in mind the ongoing dialogue that the Argentine government maintains with civil society, the Delegation of Argentina could count with the valuable contribution of representatives of two non-governmental organizations as Advisors during the negotiation of the Convention.

Ms. President,

On the other hand, the commitment of Argentina with the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has also been evident in the Inter-American sphere. Thus, during the XXXVI session of the OAS General Assembly, which took place in June 2006, Argentina sponsored a draft resolution adopted by consensus, through which the States in the region reaffirmed their commitment with the protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups undergoing a situation of vulnerability, among them persons with disabilities. Resolution AG/RES 2167 has the ultimate goal of establishing the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities, taking into account the contributions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and of the civil society organizations specializing in disability issues.

Once more, Argentina welcomes this contribution of the General Assembly to the progressive development of international human rights law through this new legal instrument, which reflects the need for world awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities, with the commitment and obligation of each of our States, as established in article 8 of the instrument we have adopted today.

Thank you, Ms. President.

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Statement by Ambassador Normandin to the General Assembly on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Statement by Ambassador Henri-Paul Normandin
Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations
to the 61st Session of the United Nations General Assembly
on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

New York, 13 December 2006

Canada is proud to have contributed to the development of international human rights law through our active participation in the Ad Hoc Committee established to negotiate the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This Convention promises to be an important tool for the protection and promotion of the human rights of some of the most in need of such protection: persons with disabilities. We commend the spirit of compromise and hard work of the delegations involved in the Ad Hoc Committee which ensured that this Convention was agreed upon in record time. As agreed among the delegates, while this Convention does not create new rights, it prevents discrimination so that the human rights of persons with disabilities, which are the same rights guaranteed to everyone, are understood and ensured by States. It is for this reason that we believe that the development of this Convention is long overdue.

One of the challenges of States party to this Convention will be ensuring the appropriate standard of realization depending on the nature of the obligation. While some rights will be immediately realizable for persons with disabilities, other rights will be subject to a standard of progressive realization and therefore will require investment by States to the maximum of their available resources.

We now have a few more specific comments to make concerning particular preambular and substantive provisions.

The definition of disability was the subject of extensive discussion during negotiations. The result of this discussion was the inclusion in the text of a baseline for the guidance of States clearly incorporating a social, human rights based understanding of disability. It clearly does not require that States adopt one single definition of disability in all their laws, policies and programs. This flexible approach will allow for evolution of this concept over time in order to reflect our changing understanding of disability and the circumstances in which persons with disabilities face discrimination.

Canada is pleased to welcome the strong equality rights provision, and the significant contribution this Convention makes to developing the concept of reasonable accommodation, so crucial to ensuring the full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society. This provision requires States to prohibit all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities, and clearly includes both direct and indirect discrimination. The concepts of equality and reasonable accomodation reflect “substantive equality”, namely treating persons with disabilities according to their actual merits, capacities and circumstances, not based on stereotypes. Substantive equality does not mean simply treating everyone in exactly the same way. Indeed, accommodating people’s differences is the essence of substantive equality, and this understanding is especially key to eliminating discrimination against persons with disabilities. Canada likewise welcomes in particular the equal recognition of persons with disabilities as persons before the law. The complexities across various legal regimes made this a particularly difficult topic of discussion during the negotiation. Through sustained effort, delegates arrived ultimately at a text which recognises that persons with disabilities, like all members of society, are presumed to have legal capacity to act in all aspects of their lives. And, as with all members of society, a determination of incapacity should only be based on evidence of the individual’s actual decision-making ability, rather than on the existence of a disability. Read together with the entire Convention, this provision underscores that opportunities for persons with disabilities to exercise their legal capacity cannot be denied on a discriminatory basis. While this provision is not a prohibition on substitute decision-making regimes, it does place particular emphasis on the importance of supported decision-making. Finally, regardless whether substitute or supported decision-making is involved, the provision requires that States ensure that appropriate safeguards be in place to avoid abuse.

We have seen the introduction of a new term in this Convention through a reference to “social protection” in place of social security. In light of the narrow interpretation of the term “social security” in some jurisdictions, Canada was able to join consensus given the important focus of this provision on non-discrimination.

With respect to the references to intellectual property in Article 30, Canada considers that the concept of “unreasonableness” in para. 3 is linked to that of discrimination, and should not be viewed as a separate and distinct criterion. A key aspect of this provision is that it is to be interpreted in a manner consistent with international law, in particular international commitments concerning intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights have been developed to ensure that society benefits from intellectual activity. These rights protect creators and inventors, prevent confusion, and promote access for the public. Canada looks forward to working with other governments to with a view to promoting best practices pursuant to such interpretation of international norms.

We end with a comment on the articles on international monitoring. Canada has expressed all along our desire to innovate in designing an international monitoring mechanism which would serve the goal of ensuring effective and efficient monitoring of the rights contained in this Convention. We heard the delegations and representatives of non-governmental organizations expressing the opinion that the existing monitoring model would ensure that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would not be a “second-class citizen”. Canada never accepted this argument. Instead we believe that the rights of persons with disabilities would be best ensured by innovation, through a linking of the existing treaty bodies through a system of experts. In recognition of the time constraints, Canada joined consensus on the creation of a mechanism on the basis of the existing model though here too we had hoped for some innovation based on best practices of existing treaty bodies. We hope that the new treaty body will integrate the lessons learned over the years of operation of existing treaty bodies and we expect that the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be able to make an important contribution to discussions on future treaty body reform.

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Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Ambassador Liu Zhenmin at UNGA 61st Session on the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


Madam President,

The 61st Session of the General Assembly has just adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is a milestone in the history of the protection of the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. The Convention is the outcome of strong political will of the international community, and reflects the constructive and cooperative approach of all negotiating parties.

The Chinese government has always attached great importance to the protection of the rights and interests of persons with disabilities as well as the guarantee of their social welfare. According to the recently conducted nation-wide sampling on persons with disabilities, China has almost 83 million persons with disabilities. Over the years, the Chinese government has established and gradually improved our system for the safeguarding of the human rights of persons with disabilities, thus helping them to participate in social life on an equal footing and to share the fruits of social development. This year, the Chinese government promulgated and put into practice the China Development Outline for the Cause of Persons with Disabilities (2006-2010) with the aim of realizing “rehabilitation services for all” and other goals in this area.

Madam President,

The Chinese government is among those who promote the formulation of the Convention in early days. In the past 5 years, the Chinese delegation took an active part in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Convention and made its due contribution. In order to complete the drafting of the Convention on time, many delegations, including mine, did their best to demonstrate flexibility on some contentious issues in the Convention during consultations. We are deeply convinced that the adoption of the Convention will contribute a helpful conceptual, policy and legal framework for the efforts of the international community to protect the rights and interests of persons with disabilities.

Thank you, Madam President.

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STATEMENT by Ambassador Mirjana Mladineo
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia
on behalf of the Eastern European Group

General Assembly
Sixty first Session


Madame President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Eastern European Group of States.

Let me start by thanking the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Ambassador McKay on his tremendous efforts and clear guidance that led us on our way to reaching a consolidated text of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

Allow me also to thank all States as well as all relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations for giving their significant contribution to drafting and negotiating different issues of the Convention.
Your hard work and readiness to make compromise in order to reach a common goal is the reason why we have a consolidated text ready for adoption.

Madame President,

The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century. That is why the Eastern European Group is pleased about the fact that this Convention has been drafted with unprecedented participation of civil society, particularly persons with disabilities and their organizations.

The Eastern European Group believes that this Convention will increase the level of inclusion of persons with disabilities in society, helping them to become more contributing members of their communities. It will also help us reach some of the Millennium Development Goals that we have committed ourselves.

Today, as we are about to adopt this significant Convention that means so much to millions of disabled persons and their families around the world, let us not forget that it is now equally important for the international community to continue with the process of signing, ratifying and implementing the Convention with the same persistence and dedication.

Madame President,

By adopting this Convention, we the members of the United Nations, are sending an important message to the world. We unanimously state that our countries are serious when dealing with human rights of persons with disabilities.

Let us remember that a level of civilization is often measured by the level of rights that are being given by world leaders to the weakest in their societies. The adoption of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities is definitely a step further on this level.

Thank you.

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Statement by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Representative
of Finland to the UN, on behalf of the European Union
New York, 13 December 2006

Madam President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Moldova, align themselves with this declaration.

*) Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Madam President,

The European Union would like to join other delegations in congratulating all of us, distinguished delegates and members of the civil society, for having concluded, in a relatively short period of time, the negotiations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We wish to express our deep appreciation to Ambassador McKay, as the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee. Without his dedication, commitment and determination, not to mention his competent guidance through this sometimes difficult process, we would not have had such an open, transparent and fully inclusive process and we would certainly not be here today with a Convention.

We also wish to thank the civil society that has been participating in large numbers in the process throughout the years in accordance with the principle “nothing about us without us”. Without their valuable input and their intimate knowledge of the life with disabilities this Convention would not have as much value as it does now.

Equally, we wish to thank all the delegates who participated in the long hours of drafting and negotiating on all various issues regardless of the time and place and who, often through difficult compromises, were able to reach consensus on the text of the Convention.

On a more substantive matter, we wish to refer to the interpretative statement made by some States regarding paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Convention. It is our understanding that the concept of ‘legal capacity’ has the same meaning in all language versions.

We hope that through the adoption and wide ratification of this Convention in the near future and through the awareness raising this process has been, the 650 million persons with disabilities in the world will have a better future with respect to their enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others.

Through all these years we have been saying “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”…. Now that time has come and…”Everything has been agreed”.

Thank you, Madam President.

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Hole See

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore
Apostolic Nuncio
Permanent Observer of the Holy See

61st session of the UN General Assembly
Before the 76th plenary meeting, on item 67 (b):

Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms: note by the Secretary-General transmitting the final report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities (A/61/611): draft resolution (para. 7)

New York, 13 December 2006

Madam President,

On the occasion of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, my delegation would like to convey its appreciation to Ambassadors L. Gallegos and D. McKay for their dedicated leadership over these long negotiations.

Protecting the rights, dignity and worth of persons with disabilities remains a major concern for the Holy See. The Holy See has consistently called for disabled individuals to be completely and compassionately integrated into society, convinced that they possess full and inalienable human rights. Therefore, from the very beginning, my delegation has been a constructive and active partner in these negotiations.

While there are many helpful articles in the Convention, including those that address education and the very important role of the home and the family, surely the living heart of this document lies in its reaffirmation of the right to life. For far too long, and by far too many, the lives of people with disabilities have been undervalued or thought to be of a diminished dignity and worth. My delegation worked assiduously to make the text a basis upon which to reverse that assumption and to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights by people with disabilities. This is why I would like now to put on record the Holy See’s position on certain provisions of the Convention.

With regard to article 18, concerning liberty of movement and nationality, and article 23 on respect for home and the family, the Holy See interprets these in a way which safeguards the primary and inalienable rights of parents.

Further, my delegation interprets all the terms and phrases regarding family planning services, regulation of fertility and marriage in article 23, as well as the word “gender”, as it did in its reservations and statements of interpretation at the Cairo and Beijing International Conferences.

Finally, and most importantly, regarding article 25 on health, and specifically the reference to sexual and reproductive health, the Holy See understands access to reproductive health as being a holistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms. Moreover, we agree with the broad consensus that has been voiced in this chamber and the travaux préparatoires that this article does not create any new international rights and is merely intended to ensure that a person’s disability is not used as a basis for denying a health service.

However, even with this understanding, we opposed the inclusion of such a phrase in this article, because in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being, affirmed by article 10 of the Convention. It is surely tragic that, wherever fetal defect is a precondition for offering or employing abortion, the same Convention created to protect persons with disabilities from all discrimination in the exercise of their rights, may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons.

For this reason, and despite the many helpful articles this Convention contains, the Holy See is unable to sign it.

In conclusion, my delegation considers that the positive potential of this Convention will only be realized when national legal provisions and implementation by all parties fully comply with article 10 on the right to life for disabled persons.

I ask that this statement be included in the report of this meeting.

Thank you, Madam President.

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Statement by Dr. Dina Feldman, Ministry of Justice, State of Israel
During the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(61 st Session of the General Assembly, United Nations, 13 December 2006)

Madame President, distinguished delegates,

On the behalf of the State of Israel, my delegation would like to express its joy in participating in the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which indeed is a momentous occasion. My delegation would also like to express gratitude to our colleagues in the United Nations Secretariat, Member States, and civil society who were involved in initiating, drafting, and bringing to completion this historic Convention.

For the hundreds of millions of persons with disabilities – living across the world and who still must cope with conditions of poverty, discrimination, humiliation and exclusion – the adoption of this Convention by the General Assembly is a reaffirmation that all human beings were created, equally, in the image of God (Genesis, 1:26-27).

We, in Israel, fondly remember having these same feelings of joy and satisfaction when we passed the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law in 1998, enacted the extensive provisions concerning the accessibility of public accommodations in 2005, and established the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities as part of the Ministry of Justice in August 2000.

Madame President,

Once our celebrations here have concluded, this Convention, like other conventions and pieces of legislation, will be judged solely on the basis of its implementation. Many of us know only too well the challenges of changing attitudes and practices among policy makers, professionals, and the general public – even among persons with disabilities themselves. We must ensure that the responsibility to guarantee the rights of all human beings are internalized and protected by all.

This is a process requiring a great deal of learning and openness to accept the “other” as an essential part of society. This is a process that demands not only a heightening of awareness and mutual respect, but also the investment of financial and human resources in making every aspect of society accessible to all. This is a process of democratization, calling for the establishment of partnerships between professionals and people with disabilities at crucial decision making points on the journey towards realization of the goals of the Convention.

Madame President,

The State of Israel, which has been actively involved in the formulation of the Convention, is committed to advancing the rights of person with disabilities and several steps have already been initiated in Israel, with a view to promoting the implementation of the Convention. We have begun to review our own domestic legislation in the light of the wide-ranging provisions of the Convention. Our Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities is working on the establishment of disability studies centers, which will train and teach professionals in public and civil society about the principles and practices of implementing the Convention. The Commission is also in the process of developing a quantitative monitoring mechanism to enable tracking of the implementation progress of our domestic Equal Rights Law together with the provisions of the Convention. To this effect we have already translated the convention into Hebrew, and will distribute it to relevant entities now that we have adopted the Convention.

Madame President,

While commending the impressive work of those involved in bringing the convention to successful completion, we echo the concern raised by other delegations and express our regret at certain elements of politicization during the drafting process, particularly with respect to preambular paragraph U. The attempt to draw artificial parallels between two different legal regimes under international law, that of human rights law and the law of armed conflict, only undermines the effectiveness of each regime. Israel would therefore like to place on record its concern regarding references in the Convention to elements taken from the law of armed conflict.

In conclusion, Madame President,

Let us all advance forward, governments and civil society alike, in taking the necessary steps toward implementation of the Convention. Israel, for its part, is open both to contributing on the basis of our own experience, as well as learning from the experience of others. Let us continue with the positive and the cooperative spirit of the Ad Hoc Committee that was initiated by the Mexican government, inspired by our chairs, Ambassador Luis Gallegos and Ambassador Don Mackay. We owe them a great deal, as to many, many others.

In our tradition, we have a practice of reciting a blessing of thanksgiving and for future success upon occasions of great accomplishment. I am citing:

“Blessed be the one who sustained us and brought us to this joyous occasion”

Thank you.

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Statement by Mr. Yasushi Takase
Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations
On the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol

Sixtieth-first Session of the General Assembly

13 December, 2006
New York

Madam President,

The Government of Japan applauds the adoption of the draft resolution as well as the draft Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

The Convention enables all persons with disabilities to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimination and promotes respect for their inherent dignity. Japan attaches great importance to this instrument and has participated actively in the negotiations on the text that have taken place in the Ad Hoc Committee since July 2002, and we highly appreciate the sustained efforts of all interested parties to bring them to a successful conclusion. We also would like to point out that civil society, especially persons with disabilities themselves, have made a great contribution to this process by offering their special perspectives on the Convention.

Having said that, we would like to place on record the following understanding concerning certain of its provisions.

Firstly, we understand there was consensus on a broad concept rather than a rigid definition, regarding the term “persons with disabilities”, and therefore State Party may stipulate its own appropriate definitions at the national level.

Secondly, regarding paragraph 2 of Article 12, we believe that the term “legal capacity” should allow flexible interpretation, bearing in mind the differences in national legal systems.

Finally, in accordance with the articles on the international monitoring, we are to establish a Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the near future. We welcome this decision. However, it will by no means be easy to maintain such a committee, bearing in mind the practical difficulties the overall treaty body system is facing due to the fragmented treaty bodies and the reporting requirements as well as the fact that the resources of the UN, which are born by the Member States’ taxpayers, are not unlimited. Therefore we believe all Member States should make every effort to maximize the efficiency of this international monitoring mechanism, bearing in mind the ongoing discussion on treaty body reform.

Madam President,

The adoption of this Convention should not be our last achievement in this area but rather the first. All Member States must make further efforts to ensure and promote the full realization of the rights of persons with disabilities, as stipulated in the Convention. The Government of Japan intends to exert its utmost efforts to consider signing and ratifying the Convention.

I thank you, Madam President.

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Nueva York, N. Y., 13 de diciembre de 2006

Señora Presidenta,

Las Naciones Unidas hemos dado un paso histórico al adoptar esta Convención y su Protocolo facultativo, que vienen a llenar una laguna en el marco jurídico internacional. México celebra la exitosa culminación de este proceso, iniciado hace cinco años con el propósito responder a una legítima demanda de las personas con discapacidad de todo el mundo. A nombre de mi Gobierno y mi país, deseo felicitar al Presidente del Comité Especial, Embajador Don Mac Kay, de Nueva Zelanda, quien condujo los trabajos del Comité con excepcional habilidad y profunda dedicación. También extiendo mi reconocimiento al Embajador Luis Gallegos, de Ecuador, quien presidió el Comité durante sus primeros años en los que mostró un notable compromiso.

Mi delegación se congratula, además, por la naturaleza participativa y transparente que siempre tuvieron los trabajos del Comité Especial.

El instrumento que hoy adoptamos no hubiera sido posible sin la participación y los insumos de la sociedad civil, con quien los Estados trabajamos como verdaderos socios, lo que le imprimió al proceso una dinámica especialmente constructiva. Confiamos en que esta colaboración se mantendrá en las etapas conducentes a la firma y ratificación de la Convención y, especialmente, a su aplicación en todos los Estados.

Señora Presidenta,

Mediante este nuevo tratado se consolidan los esfuerzos que la Organización ha venido realizando a favor de los derechos humanos – lo que corresponde al corazón mismo de la política exterior mexicana – así como la participación social de las personas con discapacidad, a lo largo de su historia.

La Convención marca un hito que sin duda cambiará las condiciones de vida de las personas con discapacidad y contribuirá a construir sociedades más justas y equitativas, al constituir el primer instrumento internacional de carácter vinculante en la materia e integrar toda la gama de derechos humanos, así como las medidas necesarias para garantizarlos.

Lo anterior se fortalece mediante las formas de vigilancia con que hemos dotado al instrumento, que está al mismo nivel que los mecanismos de los demás tratados internacionales de derechos humanos. Esta ruta nos permitirá velar por la aplicación de la Convención e identificar los principales retos para su cumplimiento, inclusive mediante la cooperación internacional y la colaboración con la sociedad civil y otros actores de la comunidad internacional.

Quisiera enfatizar que la Convención contribuye a fomentar una nueva perspectiva que nos debe llevar a la consolidación de un cambio cultural en nuestras sociedades, respecto a la forma en que abordamos la situación de las personas con discapacidad. El tratado trasciende el modelo médico-asistencialista, para dar paso al pleno reconocimiento de las personas con discapacidad como sujetos de derechos y miembros activos de la sociedad, con plena autonomía y libertad para tomar sus decisiones.

Señora Presidenta,

Hoy termina una parte significativa de nuestra tarea y sin duda debemos estar satisfechos por la calidad del instrumento adoptado. De la misma manera, es necesario tener presente que se trata apenas del primer paso entre una serie de medidas que deberemos adoptar para que la letra de la Convención se traduzca en resultados concretos en los Estados Parte.

Para ello, esperamos contar con el pleno apoyo del Secretario General y todos los organismos competentes del sistema de la ONU, a fin de dar la mayor difusión posible a la Convención y contribuir a su instrumentación. México confía en que el tratado contará con las ratificaciones necesarias para entrar en vigor en el plazo más breve posible, a fin de poderlo llevar a la práctica.

En ese sentido, me es grato anunciar que el Congreso mexicano ha formulado un exhorto para que México firme y ratifique la Convención a la brevedad, consciente de que ello redundará en beneficio de los diez millones de personas con discapacidad que habitan en mi país. En ese mismo tenor, quisiera señalar que las instituciones nacionales competentes se avocarán a realizar las acciones necesarias para su aplicación, de la manera más amplia, cabal y expedita posible.|

Señora Presidenta,

Quiero dejar correr nuestro gozo y reconocimiento por un hecho sin precedentes que paga una deuda a 650 millones de personas que injustamente han permanecido invisibles. El mundo está de fiesta. México está de fiesta y reconocido con el mundo.

Gracias, Señora Presidenta.

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New Zealand

Statement on behalf of New Zealand, by Ambassador Don MacKay (Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee), at the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 2006

Madame President

New Zealand has been pleased to join the consensus in support of this resolution.

The adoption of this Convention by the General Assembly is the end of a journey embarked on by the United Nations since 2001. For the international disability community, it has been a much longer journey.

Disability organisations – civil society – have long been pressing for a convention dealing specifically with the rights of persons with disabilities. It is no secret that some governments had, initially, some reservations about the need to negotiate a major new human rights convention, particularly given the resources required for such a process. Theoretically there was no need for a new convention, because the existing human rights instruments apply to persons with disabilities, in just the same way that they do to everyone else.

The reality, unfortunately, has not followed the theory. The existing human rights instruments have fallen far short in their protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed to persons with disabilities.

This does not mean that States have deliberately avoided their obligations. But many of the obligations under other instruments are set out in quite a broad and generic way, which can leave grey areas for their practical implementation in respect of particular groups. Often, too, the enjoyment of rights and freedoms by persons with disabilities may require some adaptation by States to accommodate the disability in question. And unfortunately persons with disabilities have often been marginalised and discriminated against in our societies.

The dismaying statistics compiled by the United Nations and the Specialised Agencies on the situation of persons with disabilities worldwide leave no doubt that specific action needed to be taken. And those of us who have participated in these negotiations were certainly left in no doubt as to why this convention is needed. The candid and informative contributions of civil society, the disability organisations, have been invaluable in opening our eyes and reaffirming why our task was so crucial.

Once that hurdle had been overcome, and there was acceptance of the need for a Convention, all of the participants, States and civil society together, have worked tirelessly to get a worthy outcome.

New Zealand is confident that the Convention is a worthy outcome, and that it will make a significant difference to the ten percent of the world’s population that lives with a disability. It is a practically focussed convention, because it has been so closely informed and influenced by the experiences of persons with disabilities worldwide, as represented by their organisations. They have clearly articulated the challenges, difficulties and requirements of persons with disabilities in their interaction with society at large, and it is those areas – and they are myriad – on which the Convention focuses. It will be the benchmark for future standards and action.

Attitudes need to change, societies need to be more inclusive and accessible, and persons with disabilities need to be more empowered. The Convention enshrines themes such as these.

The key, of course, will be effective implementation. For that, we need to bring the Convention into force as quickly as possible, and with 20 States Parties required, the threshold is relatively low. With the formal adoption of the Convention by this Assembly, governments now need to move quickly to enact any necessary legislation, to take the necessary constitutional or administrative steps, and to sign and ratify the convention. It would be a travesty if, following the adoption of this Convention, treaty action is allowed to languish, and persons with disabilities yet again find themselves at the back of the queue for government attention.

Effective implementation will also require effective and coordinated action by disability organisations, which we have seen to work so well in the negotiations. It will require cooperation between States, and the mainstreaming of disabilities issues into development assistance programmes. Again, this is covered in the Convention.

Madame President, in conclusion may I say that it has been a privilege for New Zealand and me personally to be closely involved in these negotiations, initially as Chair of the Working Group and coordinator of the informal negotiations, and subsequently as Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee. Could I place on the record our huge indebtedness for the extraordinarily hard work of those involved in the process, particularly the bureau – no bureau has ever served a process better – the Chair of the Drafting Committee who has worked so expertly, the chair of the negotiations on monitoring, and those many others who have chaired and facilitated a wide variety of issues, as well as for the support of the Secretariat and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I should also like to acknowledge the excellent work done by my predecessor in the chair.

In my role as Chair, I have had strong support from the New Zealand Government which has been thoroughly committed to this process, including the Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Ruth Dyson, and from my colleagues from New Zealand. Finally, may I express wholehearted thanks to all of the participants in the negotiations, from States and from civil society, for the highly constructive, positive and supportive approach that they have consistently taken.


The Philippines

Statement delivered by H.E. Bayani S. Mercado
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations

After the adoption of the
Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol

13 December 2006

Madame President,

The Philippines welcomes the adoption by the General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as its Optional Protocol. Our congratulations also goes to Ambassador Don McKay and the members of the Ad Hoc Committee for their excellent work. My delegation takes the floor to highlight three important issues:

The comprehensive nature of the Convention

First of all, when the General Assembly formally embarked on a course to draft a Convention on disabilities, the Assembly originally intended for the Convention to be a comprehensive and integral instrument that would uplift the lives of all persons with disabilities. This was the reason why we used the lengthy title1 of the draft convention in all eight negotiation sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee. While for brevity’s sake, we have adopted the present title, it is the Philippines’ understanding that this does not detract from the holistic nature and character of the Convention, originally intended by the General Assembly in its resolution 56/168, which embodies, in a unified way, the perspectives of development, human rights and non-discrimination, covering all countries, both developed and developing. This holistic approach is reflected in many of the preambular paragraphs, but in particular, in paragraphs (f) and (y). The holistic approach is also the spirit behind Article 32 on International Cooperation. Let it then be remembered that what we have adopted is an instrument that embodies this holistic nature.

The concept of legal capacity

Second, it is the policy of the Philippines to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights. The Philippines ensures that persons with disabilities, as members of the society, exercise the same rights and obligations as all others. Hence, where a person’s capacity to exercise his or her rights may be restricted under certain circumstances, adequate safeguards under our laws are employed to ensure that he or she is still able to fully exercise these rights, including, if necessary, with the assistance of others.

In Article 12 of the Convention, the Philippines understands the term “legal capacity” under the terms of the Philippine Civil Code, which makes a distinction between the terms “legal capacity” and the “capacity to act”. Under our Civil Code, “capacity to act” refers to the power to do acts with legal effect. It refers to the aptitude for the exercise of rights. On the other hand, the term “legal capacity” under our Civil Code is synonymous to “juridical capacity” and is defined as the fitness of a person to be subject of legal relations. For purposes of domestic implementation, the term “legal capacity” in Article 12 shall therefore be construed by the Philippines as the “capacity to act”.

On health care and the protection of the right to life

Lastly, the Philippines considers it highly important to ensure the total health of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, the Philippines is of the belief that the provision of health care and all other services should not, in any way, undermine the right to life of a person, with or without a disability, in all stages of his or her being. It is in this light that the Philippines understands Article 12 and Article 25 of the Convention.

Thank you, Madame President.


  1. The title used in all eight sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee was “Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities”.

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International Disability Caucus

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The International Disability Caucus, representing over 70 international, regional and national disabled people’s organizations and allied non-governmental organizations, is pleased and gratified to welcome the adoption of this historic Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. For five years, the disability community has worked together with governments to articulate the rights of persons with disabilities, as a new interpretation and application of existing human rights and fundamental freedoms. Because we have shared our lives, all participants have learned about the human rights violations experienced by people with disabilities and how best to remedy them to create a more just and inclusive world.

The Convention process as well as its content have combined seemingly disparate elements to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, as is fitting for the first human rights treaty of the twenty-first century. We have combined a non-discrimination approach to human rights with a comprehensive approach, deriving the best of both. We have brought elements of social development to a human rights convention, ensuring that development will be inclusive and rights-protective, and that there will be opportunities for international cooperation. We have created a Convention that can hold value for all people with disabilities, irrespective of the type of disability, language or geographical location. This would not have been possible without the cooperation among governments and civil society, including the historic Working Group that produced the first official draft of the Convention, and that included civil society participation together with governments and national human rights institutions.

The same cooperation that we achieved in the Ad Hoc Committee must continue as we move beyond the adoption of the Convention. The Convention represents a commitment to transform our societies so that people with disabilities will have equal rights and opportunities with others. This commitment recognizes both the intrinsic worth and value of every human being, and the value to society of the increased participation of all its members. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reaffirms core human rights principles, in particular the need for social solidarity to fulfill individual human rights, and the importance of respect for individual rights and freedoms in creating a vibrant and just society.

The International Disability Caucus wishes to thank the States that participated in the Ad Hoc Committee for their support to the process, for their engagement and open-mindedness in learning about issues or approaches that were previously unfamiliar. We thank Ambassador MacKay for bringing this Convention to a successful conclusion, and thank Ambassador Gallegos for his initial chairing that brought us through the early stages and for promoting active civil society participation. We thank the Members of the Bureau and the Secretariat for their hard work and for ensuring an open and participatory process on the part of all concerned, including efforts to make the process accessible by removing physical barriers and producing materials in accessible formats. We thank the United Nations for the accessibility seminar on December 4, and look forward to working together to improve access throughout the United Nations. We also thank the Special Rapporteur on Disability for her contributions and support to the convention process.

The Convention represents a paradigm shift that will have a substantial impact on the lives of millions of people with disabilities throughout the world. We are especially gratified that this paradigm shift was underlined by deletion of the footnote to Article 12, since the right to enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis in all aspects, including the capacity to act, is fundamental to basic equality and participation in all aspects of life.

The International Disability Caucus is pleased that women with disabilities have a basis for programmatic focus on gender-related issues and multiple discrimination based on both gender and disability; and that there are specific obligations tailoring the Convention to children with disabilities. We are pleased that indigenous people with disabilities were recognized and expect that implementation of the Convention will include indigenous people with disabilities and indigenous communities.

It must also be acknowledged that people whose disabilities are “invisible” or not readily apparent have a claim on the Convention, bearing in mind the inclusive and evolving concept of disability.

The International Disability Caucus looks forward to a large number of countries signing and ratifying the Convention and Optional Protocol, to accelerate the process of making our rights a reality. We anticipate the active participation by organizations of people with disabilities in the implementation at all levels, and that the requirements for consultation will be embraced as an opportunity to learn and work together, as they were in the Ad Hoc Committee. We look forward to a treaty monitoring committee that will be composed of highly qualified experts with disabilities, that will give valuable guidance to States Parties; and to the Conference of States Parties that will be a forum for international cooperation on matters related to implementation of the Convention, in which we expect to participate.

Most of all, we look forward to a society in which the rights and participation of people with disabilities are taken for granted, and to the work that will be necessary to achieve that goal. Nothing About Us Without Us!