Health Policy

UN convention on disability rights reaches milestone in signatories

United Nations officials have said that the global treaty to protect the rights of the world’s estimated 650 million people with disabilities could take effect by early 2008 after Qatar recently becoming the 100th country to sign the landmark pact. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will enter into force 30 days after the 20th country ratifies the treaty, but so far only Jamaica has taken the step of ratification.

The UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities estimates that the next 19 ratifications could be reached by as early as the end of 2007. UN disability expert Thomas Schindlmayr has said that the pact is designed to maintain human rights “standards that the international community has agreed upon for all.” He said that as many as two-thirds of UN Member States do not have any legal protection for people with disabilities, even though they comprise one in 10 of the global population. The Convention is supposed to “ensure that people with disabilities enjoy the same human rights that everyone else does in their respective societies. It is not granting any ‘new’ human rights. The pact provides that States which ratify it should enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights, and also abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.

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