After five years of negotiations, history was made at the United Nations (UN) last week as a new treaty to advance and protect the rights of persons with a disability was agreed to by delegates of all 192 UN Member Nations. For the first time it is recognized that persons with a disability should have the right to participate in sporting activities with a choice between mainstream and disability-specific programmes; have equal access to sporting activities in the school system; and have access to sporting and recreational venues whether as a participant or as a spectator. Around 650 million people worldwide live with a disability. “This is the first convention of this magnitude for this century,” UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson said after the agreement was reached late Friday. He told the negotiators that they were conveying to the world “the message that we want to have a life with dignity for all and that all human beings are all equal.” The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has been involved throughout the process to ensure that the UN delegates understand the value and role sport and recreation have for both individuals and societies.
Ann Cody, IPC Governing Board Member said: “This is truly a historic moment for both the disability and sport movements. The Paralympic Movement can play a significant role in raising awareness of the treaty, particularly through the IPC’s membership and Paralympic athletes as global messengers.” While the convention does not create new rights, it specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with a disability in all areas of life, including civil rights, access to justice and the right to education, health services and access to transportation. The IPC Human Rights Advisor and Paralympian, Linda Mastandrea said: “I am confident the treaty will open up the world of sport and recreation to persons with a disability that have not had the opportunity. It will take time but in the future we will see a real impact on the world stage thanks to more participation at the local level which will then feed into growth at all levels of world competition including the Paralympic Games.” The convention will be formally sent to the UN General Assembly for adoption at its next session, which begins in September. It will then be open for signing and ratification by all countries. “This marks a great day for the UN and for persons with disabilities,” said New Zealand’s Ambassador Don MacKay, who chaired the talks through its final sessions. “It’s a good convention and it will make a difference for millions of people.”
For more information about the UN Convention, please visit the official website at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/