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Israel's deputy UN ambassador Daniel Carmon is expected to sign on Friday a new international human rights treaty aimed at protecting and furthering the rights of people with disabilities.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is slated to be ratified by some 53 countries in a special ceremony at UN headquarters in New York, is intended to ensure that those with mental and physical disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else and are able to lead their lives as full-fledged citizens who can make valuable contributions to society if given the same opportunities.
It also covers rights such as non-discrimination and equal recognition before the law; liberty and security of the person; accessibility; personal mobility and independent living; right to health, work and education; and participation in political and cultural life.
"This is a excellent convention to protect the rights of people with disabilities," said Sylvia Tessler-Lozowick, executive director of Bizchut, the Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, which gave input to the UN committee that drafted the convention. "But to sign a convention is not enough; we hope that Israel will also adapt some of its legislation accordingly."
Tessler-Lozowick said Justice Ministry representatives were also involved in drafting some of the convention's clauses, and she was hopeful legal changes would be forthcoming here. Countries signing the treaty are expected to make real changes through effective legislation, and to encourage an attitude shift in society.
In addition to Bizchut, several disability organizations from around the world were the impetus for this treaty, and prior to the UN initiative had already organized themselves into the International Disability Caucus - a coalition of 70 international, regional and national organizations to push for change worldwide.
A statement released by the UN Thursday stated that, "member states and the disability community worked together at the UN to create a treaty that would ensure that persons with disabilities finally enjoy all the rights and responsibilities that others in society take for granted."
The new treaty is likely to enhance the rights of the world's 650 million persons with disabilities, said the statement.
In Israel, more than 1.36 million people, or 24 percent of Israelis, see themselves as disabled, according to statistics released this past year by the Commission for Equal Rights of People with Disabilities, which is under the auspices of the Justice Ministry.