I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Canada, Australia and New Zealand wish to reaffirm their ongoing strong support for the rights of persons with disabilities and for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Over the past year, the extraordinary momentum of support for the Convention has continued. Today we celebrate one hundred and forty three signatures and seventy one ratifications in less than three years. We welcome the signature of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the United States in July this year, a sign that this treaty is truly one with a ‘universal design.’ Signature and ratification are, however, just steps along a path towards full implementation. Much work remains to be done by all States.
CANZ welcomes the establishment of the Conference of States Parties of the Convention and its first two meetings, which were held in October 2008 and September this year; bearing in mind also New Zealand’s role as former Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee and now Vice President of the Conference. We have worked hard to ensure access by NGOs and National Human Rights institutions and enable discussion of the implementation of the Convention. CANZ is delighted with the work of the Conference, and the high level of practical engagement among States, NGOs and National Human Rights institutions in its first meetings.
The platform for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities must be a robust domestic legislative framework. CANZ therefore welcomes the resolution on the Convention, promoted by New Zealand and Mexico in the Human Rights Council, which focused on legislative measures. This resolution recommended further work was required by States with respect to legislative measures to achieve reasonable accommodation and accessibility, supported decision-making and equality before the law, and access to justice, and these issues were taken up by the second Conference of States Parties. We hope that States will continue to share their experiences in the networks established at this meeting.
CANZ encourages States to ensure that international cooperation, including development assistance, improves the quality of life of children, women and men with disabilities, builds the capacity of Disabled Peoples Organisations and national human rights institutions, and assists partner countries in complying with the Convention. For example, with the active input of persons with disabilities in developing countries, Australia drafted and launched a new “Development for All” strategy to guide its international development assistance program in ensuring the people with disabilities are genuinely included in all aspects and share equally in its benefits. This approach is supported by the close relationship between Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Islands, including joint support to a number of disability initiatives and collaboration with DPOs.
Persons with disabilities in the developing world are among those groups bearing the brunt of the global economic crisis. Marshalling the unique and vital contribution of persons with disabilities, and protection of their human rights, should however be part of any government’s plan for stabilization and recovery, especially in States where persons with disabilities already have limited support services or face barriers to employment. The Convention provides important guidance in this regard. On behalf of the Conference Bureau, New Zealand was pleased to co-chair the informal session on the Convention and the economic crisis, in partnership with the International Disability Forum.
CANZ also welcomes the establishment of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the election of Australian Professor Ronald McCallum AO. As we noted last year, the Convention represents a compromise among States and civil society that secured consensus adoption. At its forthcoming meeting, the Committee must consolidate and strengthen this agreement over its establishment phase, and be attuned to the negotiating history of the text. The common ground is where real progress can be promoted and gains made, and this will ensure that the Convention's obligations are upheld in all States. A weighty responsibility now lies with the Committee.
Canada, Australia and New Zealand look forward to doing our part to make sure the rights of persons with disabilities become a reality for all persons with disabilities around the world. We cosponsor and support the resolution on the Convention at the General Assembly this year, run by Mexico and New Zealand, which will be tabled later today. We encourage all delegations to cosponsor this resolution.