[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Monday welcomed Friday's agreement [JURIST report] by a UN General Assembly committee [official website] on the draft terms of a new UN disability rights treaty. In a statement [text] released by his official spokesman in New York, Annan called the committee's approval of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities an "historic achievement for the 650 million people with disabilities around the world", and expressed hope "that this long overdue Convention will mark the beginning of a new era in which they will have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else." He urged all UN Member States to ratify the Convention after its expected adoption by the full General Assembly at its next session beginning in September.
The Convention is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century and is designed to encourage governments to pass legislation protecting people with disabilities and to eliminate discriminatory laws and practices. Only 45 countries in the world currently have disability legislation. The US has indicated, however, that it will not sign [New Standard report] the new international accord, insisting that US domestic measures on the federal, state and local levels are already adequate for the purpose. Critics say the US position is a slight to the principle of international regulation and monitoring. The treaty is expected to take effect in 2008 or 2009 after the necessary number of ratifications has been reached.