NUI Galway Law Expert Addresses UN Conference

Monday, 3 November 2008

Protecting the rights of the world's 650 million persons with disabilities was the focus of a conference on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York which was addressed Professor Gerard Quinn of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway. The conference followed on from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, which entered into force on 3 May 2008. It was composed of States that have ratified the convention and was the first time they met as a Conference of States Parties. In his presentation, Professor Quinn underscored that the Convention's success would be determined by whether it could ignite a new dynamic of change at a national level, cautioning that people must "resist the temptation of its elegance", and not allow it to substitute for the hard work that would be needed to change domestic laws. Professor Quinn was joined by a distinguished panel by invitation of the Chair of the Conference of States to reflect on implementation. The Conference will meet annually to share experiences and make recommendations with respect to the implementation of the treaty. Members of the new UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be elected today. The Committee will monitor compliance with the convention. Professor Quinn said: "It is an honour to be asked to address the first formal gathering of States that have ratified the treaty. We all hope and expect that Ireland will ratify soon. Unfortunately, since Ireland has not yet ratified, it will not be able to take part in the election to the new UN Committee. This does not diminish the importance of the event for the 'world's largest minority'. Several of our students have participated in the drafting of the treaty and our PhD programme in disability law follows relevant events closely". The Convention, one of the fastest treaties ever negotiated at the United Nations, and one of the fastest to enter into force, has been hailed as a landmark achievement. While the Convention itself does not create any new rights for persons with disabilities worldwide, it ensures that their existing rights are promoted, protected and ensured. The first new human rights treaty of the twenty-first century, it has been signed by 136 countries since 30 March 2007, and ratified by 41. The Optional Protocol has gathered 79 signatures and 25 ratifications so far. This would allow individuals and Groups to lodge complaints against their Governments in the new UN Committee.
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