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New international convention adopted

On 13 December 2006 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the 21st Century’s first legally-binding instrument on human rights.

An estimated 10% of the world’s population – roughly 650 million people – are living with a disability and facing the many challenges that entails. The new Convention protects and promotes their rights and dignity by reaffirming “the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the need for persons with disabilities to be guaranteed their full enjoyment without discrimination.” EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen welcomed the decision and urged affiliated unions to lobby their respective governments to ratify the new Convention. The Convention does not create any new rights, but it does specifically prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in all sectors of life. The Convention affirms equality of rights for people with disabilities, the principle of non-discrimination and equal recognition in law, the right to liberty and security, the right to personal mobility and an independent life, and the rights to health, work, education and participation in political and cultural life. The ILO was closely involved in preparing the Convention and insisted on the principle of equality of opportunity and treatment and on non-discrimination. These principles are set out in ILO Convention 159 and Recommendation 168 on vocational rehabilitation and employment of people with disabilities, and other ILO Conventions on equal opportunities. The new Convention recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to work, and stipulates the obligation to protect against them all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including on the basis of gender. States must ensure that people with disabilities can freely exercise their trade union rights, must prohibit any employment discrimination and must ensure a work environment that is “open, inclusive and accessible.” Access to vocational training must also be guaranteed. For more information: www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable

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