People with disabilities suffer some of the worst human rights violations, but a groundbreaking U.N. treaty that entered into force last year provides a road map to improve this situation, the world body's top rights official said Friday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed that universal ratification and effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will help achieve this goal, as she addressed the Geneva based Human Rights Council's annual interactive debate on the issue.
The Convention, which entered into force last May, is the culmination of years of global efforts to ensure that the rights of the world's estimated 650 million persons with disabilities are guaranteed and protected. It asserts the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities.
The treaty also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves. In addition, the Convention's Optional Protocol allows individuals to petition an international expert body with grievances.
Ms. Pillay highlighted the major shift in thinking about disability brought about by the treaty. The Convention requires us to move away from charity based, or medical based, approaches to disability to a new perspective stemming from and firmly grounded in human rights. "These traditional approaches and attitudes, no matter how well intentioned they might have been, regarded persons with disabilities either as passive recipients of good will or deeds, or as problems to be fixed, or both," she stated.
In addition, the Convention recognizes that persons with any kind of disability enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others. "The depth and implications of the paradigm shift of the Convention require nothing less than a thorough and dispassionate reflection on what is needed to give full effect at the national level to this new international human rights instrument," stated Ms. Pillay.
She noted that with the entry into force of the Convention, a major legal protection gap had been filled, adding that the implementing bodies established by the treaty were now in the initial phases of their institutional development.