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May 2, 2008
Press Release

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Landmark United Nations convention on rights of persons with disabilities,
optional protocol, enter into force tomorrow, 3 may
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is set to enter into force tomorrow, 3 May, marking a new era in efforts to protect those rights.
The Convention, the first new human rights treaty of the twenty-first century, has been signed by 127 countries since 30 March 2007, and ratified by 24.  The Convention needed 20 countries to ratify before it could take effect.   Jamaica was the first country to ratify the Convention and, on 3 April, Ecuador ratified, providing the sufficient number of parties for the Convention to enter into force.
Along with the Convention, an Optional Protocol allowing individuals and groups to petition for relief will also take effect on Saturday.
United Nations Secretary-General has called the Convention a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities.  “It is a historic moment in our quest for realization of the universal human rights for all persons, creating a fully inclusive society for all.”
The Convention itself does not create any new rights.  Rather, it aims to ensure that the benefits of existing rights are fully extended and guaranteed to the world’s estimated 650 million people with disabilities.
“It had been argued that persons with disabilities were covered by existing human rights treaties, but the reality was very different,” says Akiko Ito, Chief of the Secretariat of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Focal Point on Disability. “Persons with disabilities have routinely suffered discrimination in the job market, in schools and in receiving public services.  This Convention will make sure that these people will no longer be ignored.”
By ratifying the Convention, States commit themselves to enact laws and other measures to improve disability rights, and also abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.
The Convention, among the fastest ever negotiated at the United Nations and one of the fastest to enter into force, has the strong support of United Nations Member States, as well as advocacy by the global disability movement, which was instrumental in drafting the treaty.
To mark the Convention’s entry into force, the United Nations will convene a special ceremony in the General Assembly Hall in New York on 12 May, with participants from Governments, United Nations agencies and civil society.
A Conference of the Parties is expected to be convened within six months.
For more information, please contact Franck Kuwonu of the United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.:  1 212 963 8264; e-mail:; or Sayre Nyce of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel.:  1 917 367 8090; e-mail:
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