Thursday, May 15, 2008

Well Deserved Celebration in the UN General Assembly

Monday’s celebration at the UN was all that it should have been. As I noted last week, we gathered to celebrate the adoption into force of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The General Assembly was alive with as diverse a group of people as you’re ever likely to see: Not only were they diverse in terms of their ethnicity, gender, national affiliation, political stripe, and dress. They also steered wheelchairs and wielded white canes. There were silent (but often highly animated) sign-language conversations. Personal caregivers hovered when needed, but slipped quietly out of sight when they weren’t. The documents table groaned under a mountain of books and handouts in Braille.

Promptly at 1.15, Akiko Ito, Chief of the Secretariat of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, called the event to order.

Highlights included the address of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and that of UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Kyung-wha Kang.

Other messages were delivered by H.R.H. Prince Ra’ad Bin Zeid (Jordan), Ms. Vivian Fernández de Torríjos, (First Lady, Panama), and Ms. Sue Van der Merwe, (Deputy Minister, Foreign Affairs, South Africa).

Other high-level officials from Mexico, Hungary, Bangladesh, Spain, as well as several from international disability organizations, also participated.

An exciting, energizing day.

Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and to turn CRPD from an international agreement into and international reality-–in every one of the 192 countries that call the UN home.

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